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SWEDEN AND UKRAINE

INTERVIEW: Just how likely is it that Sweden joins Nato?

The Local spoke to former MP and defence spokesperson for the Green Party, Anders Schröder, on how close he thinks Sweden is to joining Nato, and whether Sweden is nearing the end of two hundred years of formal non-alliance.

INTERVIEW: Just how likely is it that Sweden joins Nato?
File photo of Swedish and Nato flags outside the Swedish foreign ministry in 1996. Photo: Ingvar Karmhed/SCANPIX/TT

The Local: Finland began debating Nato membership in their parliament on Tuesday. What do you think Sweden might do if Finland join?

Anders Schröder: I would expect that, first of all, the Finnish debate is the first step in a long process, so them debating the issue does not mean that they are automatically very close to joining, but obviously it’s still an important step. That said, if Finland did consider joining, I assume and count on them reaching out to their Swedish counterparts and their colleagues in the Swedish government to try and ensure that any application for joining Nato would be sent in by both countries at the same time.

TL: Do you feel Sweden’s political parties are changing their positions on Nato membership?

AS: None have declared a change as of today [March 1st], but if you follow the debate certainly you can notice that a lot of important actors in several parties that are currently against Nato membership are reconsidering their decisions, so I think that’s a clear sign that things are starting to shift. If that is going to lead to an official shift in positions very soon is hard to tell, but I do think that a shift will be coming at some point in the future, whether that’s going to take months or years is harder to say, however.

TL: You were previously a member of parliament for the Green Party. Have you noticed a change in views in the Green Party, either among individuals in the party or in the party as a whole?

AS: Yes, it might happen in the Greens, it might happen in the Social Democrats as well. Obviously the Social Democratic party is the most important in this regard, as Swedish tradition is that any such big change would have to be made with the support of both the Moderates and the Social Democrats, as they are the biggest parties. But yes, we are seeing a change amongst several Social Democratic thinkers as well. I’ve seen a number of them on Twitter and also in articles over the last week now declaring an interest in either a Nato option like Finland has today, or in Nato membership. So it’s definitely a debate that’s coming up right now.

TL: Do you think there is a real threat from Russia if Sweden did decide to join Nato, or is it just empty words?

AS: I think it would be wrong of me to speculate on a Russian response to Nato membership as I’m not an expert, but if Finland and Sweden consider joining, I think it would be wise to make sure the time between the declared intent of joining and the actual signing of the papers is as short as possible.

Sometimes when you talk to foreign diplomats they say that if Sweden handed in their application on a Wednesday they could sign it by Friday. They are aware of the need to make sure that this time window is short, because once we’ve joined, obviously we’re covered by the security guarantees. That’s the window you have to reduce as much as possible, and that can be done through various diplomatic means, such as backchannelling.

TL: What is your personal opinion on Sweden joining and why?

AS: I think it would be a wise move for Sweden to join Nato, as I have declared in a number of places. I think Sweden’s current doctrine of staying free of alliances made some sense in a previous security climate where the European security order was respected.

This meant that in Europe, borders weren’t changed by force, so there was no need for Sweden to be part of Nato. We could stand outside. But as Russia have very clearly shown in the last week, that order doesn’t apply anymore. And so Sweden, and probably Finland as well, have to adapt to these new facts on the ground. I think a Nato membership makes sense in that light.

TL: So this could be the end of Swedish neutrality?

Yes. Of course, you can debate how neutral we were during the Cold War, but yes, we haven’t been part of a formal alliance for two hundred years, and I think it would be a wise move to reconsider that at the moment.

Member comments

  1. The lesson of Ukraine for Sweden is that if you are not a member of NATO, it is unlikely NATO will defend you.

    The reason is quite obvious; leaders must be able to explain to their own people that entering a war was a moral obligation mutually incurred. If you are not a member, you are obligated to no one, and no one to you.

    Should Sweden be scared? Absolutely! Knowing that NATO probably will not respond, any Russian attack will most likely be on Sweden first, thereby isolating Finland and exposing Denmark and Norway, and the Baltic states.

    We sit alone at our peril.

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NATO

Erdogan signals no progress on Sweden’s NATO bid

Erdogan signalled on Saturday that no progress had been made in Sweden's bid to join NATO, urging Stockholm to take "concrete actions" to meet Ankara's concerns, his office said.

Erdogan signals no progress on Sweden's NATO bid

In a phone call with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, Erdogan reiterated that “Sweden should take steps regarding such fundamental matters as combatting terrorism”, the Turkish presidency said in a statement.

Turkey “wanted to see binding commitments on these issues together with concrete and clear action,” he added.

Finland and Sweden discussed their stalled NATO bids with Turkey in Brussels on Monday, but Ankara dampened hopes that their dispute will be resolved before an alliance summit next week.

Turkish officials said Ankara does not view the summit as a final deadline for resolving Ankara’s objections. Ankara has accused Finland and in particular Sweden of providing a safe haven for outlawed Kurdish militants whose decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

Erdogan told Andersson that Sweden “should make concrete changes in its attitude” toward the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its Syrian affiliates, the presidency said.

“In this regard no tangible action aimed at addressing Turkey’s concerns was seen to have been taken by Sweden”, it added.

READ ALSO: Hopes fade for Sweden’s swift Nato accession

The Turkish leader also voiced expectations that Sweden would lift an arms embargo against Turkey that Stockholm imposed in 2019 over Ankara’s military offensive in Syria.

He also said he hopes that restrictions on Turkey’s defence industry would be lifted, and that Sweden will extradite several people Ankara has accused of involvement in terrorism.

The phone call comes after Erdogan discussed the two countries’ bid with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg. Erdogan also told Stoltenberg that “Sweden and Finland should take concrete and sincere steps” against outlawed Kurdish militants, the presidency said.

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