Sweden, which is not currently part of Nato’s political and military alliance, is considering joining JEF, a UK-led expeditionary force following “Nato standards and doctrines”, according to the Swedish broadsheet.
JEF is designed to help northern European countries respond rapidly to war, including missions on behalf of organisations such as the UN and Nato. But Sweden did not sign a Letter of Intent between Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Norway, the UK and the Netherlands last year, when the neighbouring nations agreed to set up the force with a view to becoming operational before 2018.
Svenska Dagbladet says it has seen a memorandum, prepared in November 2014 by Mats Danielsson, the Swedish attaché in London, and titled ‘Orientation of JEF and requests for Swedish participation’.
Colonel Danielsson told the newspaper that while no political decision had been made by the Swedish government, there was an “ongoing dialogue” about what JEF might mean for Sweden.
Asked how interested the UK was in involving the Nordic country, he added: “They would not have anything against it. As I understand it would be perfectly possible if we wanted to.”
Sweden’s Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist told Svenska Dagbladet that Sweden “has not received any formal invitation to contribute to JEF” and that “consequently no preparation going on in the Cabinet.”
But opposition centre-right politicians were quick to suggest that they also suspected discussions about closer links with Nato were going on behind closed doors, in the face of growing aggression from Russia in the Baltic region.
“This is a game under the covers all the way,” said Liberal Party politician and chairman of Sweden’s Defence Committee Allan Widman.
He told Svenska Dagbladet: “The government is willing to allow Sweden to increase its dependence on Nato, but it is still not ready to discuss membership. The implication is that our unilateral dependence on Nato continues to increase and we become more and more at the mercy of individual countries within Nato.”
Sweden’s Social Democrat-led coalition government has vowed not to join Nato. But it has already moved to extend military cooperation with other neighbouring countries in recent months. In April, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland announced far-reaching plans which Hultqvist described as “a direct response to aggressive Russian behaviour”. Earlier this week Sweden signed a new deal with Nato member Poland.
A poll released on Monday suggested that more Swedes are now in favour of joining Nato than against the idea, representing a rapid shift in public opinion.
41 percent of people interviewed by pollsters said that they were in favour of seeking membership in the military defence alliance, 39 percent said they were against it and 20 percent were uncertain.
According to Sweden's Security Service Säpo, the biggest intelligence threat against Sweden in 2014 came from Russia.