What would happen if Sweden joined Nato?

What would happen if Sweden joined Nato?
Margot Wallström suggested Sweden will not change its stance on Nato membership. Photo: Emil Langvad/TT
Nato membership would not solve Swedish defence flaws, but it could deter Russia from engaging in conflict in the Baltic Sea, according to a new report set to be presented to government.

The report, which has been seen by the TT news agency ahead of its publication, does not take a position on the much-debated question of whether or not traditionally non-aligned Sweden should join Nato. But it does outline benefits and and drawbacks of membership in the alliance.

Diplomat Krister Bringéus was appointed by the ruling centre-left government in summer 2015 to investigate Sweden's military and defence ties to other countries. He finds that joining Nato would above all eliminate uncertainty as to how Sweden would act in the event of conflict in the Baltic Sea area.

“The common conflict-deterrent capability would, by all accounts, thereby increase,” it says, but adds that it is difficult to assess and that strengthening military ties to fellow non-Nato member Finland would also provide “a stronger regional deterrent capability”.

In a written statement on Friday, Foreign Minister Margot Wallström said that she could not comment on the contents of the study until it was officially presented, but that “Sweden’s security policy line is well known and remains unchanged. Security policy should be long-term, stable, and protected from sharp fluctuations”.
She also wrote that the answer to rising tensions in the region should be credible defence capabilities, more political dialogue and broad bilateral and international partnerships, rather than joining Nato:
“The answer is not Swedish Nato membership. Freedom from military alliances serves us well and contributes to stability and security in Northern Europe.”
Although more Swedes are still against joining Nato than for, according to a poll in July, support for membership has been growing in recent years, largely credited to a rising fear of what many perceive as an increasingly aggressive Russia, which Russia itself has dismissed as anti-Russian propaganda.

TT writes that the report virtually rules out that Russia would launch a military attack on Sweden alone. The most probable scenario, which is also considered unlikely, is that Sweden is drawn into a conflict sparked by a Russian military attack on Baltic neighbours, and Nato states, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Russia is estimated to have the military capability to take control of the Baltic states within days, a scenario which could involve the country wanting to place air defence systems on Swedish territory, for example on the island of Gotland, to stop Nato flights over the Baltic Sea.

Bringéus notes that Sweden's defence, despite fighter jets and high-class submarines, has “not insignificant shortcomings” according to the general view. It would need external military assistance, but US reinforcement with ground forces in place would take at least three weeks to set up.

However, the report adds that Nato membership would not be a shortcut to solving these military flaws. “To Nato members the first line of defence is the national resources,” it states.

The report says it is likely that Sweden would be accepted as a Nato member and that it would take around 12-15 months to process its application. Such an application would lead to a political crisis with Russia, “the extent of which is difficult to assess” but would likely be limited to political rhetoric and military threats.