'Sweden will be a Nato member in ten years'
The Local · 6 Jul 2016, 15:10
Published: 06 Jul 2016 15:10 GMT+02:00
- Sweden: A divided EU is to Russia's advantage (05 Jul 16)
- 'Sweden would not be able to defend Gotland' (30 May 16)
- Russia mocks Sweden over 'James Bond' conspiracies (20 May 16)
The former leader of Sweden's centre-right Moderate party made the comments during Almedalen Week, an annual politics festival which sees politicians, pundits and lobbyists descend on the island of Gotland.
"Russia is entering an increasingly uncertain phase of its development with increasingly authoritarian tendencies and a growing uncertainty about the economy and the future political leadership," Bildt told Swedish business paper Dagens Industri late on Tuesday.
He spoke a day after Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist, of the ruling centre-left Social Democrats, spoke at a seminar in Visby, Gotland, about Sweden's extended military and security cooperation with Finland, Denmark, Poland, the Baltic countries, the United Kingdom and the United States.
“We are doing that in a very open and transparent manner. I therefore think we are taking the responsibility of stabilizing the situation,” said Hultqvist on Monday.
But Bildt said traditionally non-aligned Sweden, whose parliament voted this year to ratity a so-called Host Nation Support Agreement (HSNA) with Nato, should strike up more links with other members of the alliance.
"Before, Sweden enjoyed wider cooperation with Norway, but it has dwindled out which is not good. Norway is the most powerful actor in the Baltic-Scandinavian region. The country, which is an Atlantic nation, is considered the strongest link to the US," he said.
"We have a situation with a debate which the Social Democratic party cannot handle. But in ten years it is highly likely that Sweden and Finland will be members," predicted Bildt.
Bildt led Sweden 1991-1994. He was foreign minister 2006-2014. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT
Originally signed in September 2014, the HNSA with Nato allows the alliance to transport helicopters, aircraft and ships across Swedish territory, but only upon Sweden’s invitation.
Public opinion in Sweden has shifted towards Nato in recent years. A Sifo poll released in September 2015 showed a marked change, with more Swedes in favour of joining the military alliance than against.
The increase is largely credited to a perceived fear of what is seen as an increasingly aggressive Russia, a concern which may seem strange to come, but runs deep within the Swedish psyche.
Of the 1,000 respondents, a total of 41 percent told the poll they were in favour of seeking membership in the military defence alliance, 39 percent said they were against it and 20 percent were uncertain.