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INTERVIEW: ‘Nato will process a Swedish application quickly’

Sweden will submit a Nato application by June, and the alliance and its member states will then move rapidly to approve it, says Gunilla Herolf, from the Swedish Institute of International Affairs.

INTERVIEW: 'Nato will process a Swedish application quickly'
Gunilla Herolf, a senior fellow at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs. Photo: Private

Gunilla Herolf, Senior Associate Research Fellow at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs, spoke to Paul O’Mahony for The Local’s Sweden in Focus podcast, which is out on Saturday. 

She said that she now believed that it was now “very likely” that Sweden will apply to join the Nato security alliance in the next few months. 

“All indications are in this direction now,” she said. “Everyone assumes that Finland will now apply for Nato membership, and they would very much like Sweden to join them in this application. I don’t think anyone doubts that this will be the case.” 

She said that there was a growing consensus in Swedish foreign policy circles that Sweden’s application will come in June, either before or at Nato’s Madrid summit on June 29th-June 30th. 

“There are also internal reasons why Sweden would like to have it before the summer, and that is the upcoming election,” she said. “The Social Democrats would not like the issue to be part of the discussions preceding the election. So they are the crucial Party right now. And for them, this is important.” 

While other parties might prefer a long-drawn-out process for election purposes, their historic support for Nato membership would probably overweigh this, she argued. 

While there are still those within the Social Democratic party who are uncomfortable with Nato membership (with the youth party recently saying it preferred to root Sweden’s security within the European Union),  Herolf said she thought the party leadership would be able to bring the grassroots on board. 

“That is the big question. I think they will. But I don’t think they will have an easy discussion,” she said. “We saw that the young social democrats would prefer the EU, which is a bit strange, I think because the EU has no military capabilities at all. But they will probably change I think.” 

READ ALSO: KEY DATES: The likely timetable for how Sweden could join Nato 

Once Sweden’s application is in, Herolf said she expected Nato, as an organisation, would move “quite rapidly”. 

“We have got strong signals that this would be a quick operation when it comes to interoperability and other issues that Sweden already fulfills,” she said. 

The next stage of the process, winning the support of the 30 member states and their parliaments, was more unpredictable.

“I’m sure that the very large majority would support us, because we are not problematic countries, either Sweden or Finland. But you’ll never know in such circumstances,” she said. “There might be countries who would like to draw some extra benefits in an issue that doesn’t have to be related to this at all, and who, therefore, prolong the application process a bit. But I don’t think it will happen, or not for too long.”

During and after Sweden’s accession, Herolf said that she expected Russia to make its displeasure felt through tough rhetoric, and also other measures, such as air incursions, cyber attacks, and sowing propaganda. 

“I guess they will make some kind of cyber attack against us. This is an easy thing for them to do. It’s fairly easy for us to meet as well. It will take maybe a week,” Herolf said. 

But she said she did not believe it would risk a military attack. 

“I would say, ‘no, generally’, because Russia would know that the possibility of Nato having a strong response to anything militarily happening to Sweden.” 

READ ALSO: Sweden’s PM on Nato: “I see no point in delaying the process”

Once Sweden joins Nato, Herolf said she expected the country to play a similar role to that played by Denmark and Norway. 

“They are active in policing the airspace of the three Baltic countries, protecting their borders by fighter jets, and also Poland gets some help, especially from Denmark.  Iceland also gets the help, since they don’t have any military forces themselves. 

“Sweden might also be asked if we would like to help out with sending units, maybe to Romania or somewhere. There will be an additional strengthening of Nato’s borders and all Nato countries are supposed to help out.” 

Member comments

  1. Sweden should stay out of NATO, and remain independent.
    Think of this strategically: As it stands, NATO and the US would of course protect Sweden if Sweden were attacked. Yet, as it stands, Sweden has none of the obligations associated with joining Nato. And it’s independence has also helped its reputation abroad.

    Crazy to join NATO now.

    Stay independent and free.


  2. Give us one good reason Sweden should throw away it’s long term neutrality and no one can tell me especially the women running Sweden who do not have a clue about Geopolitics . Four Hundred years of peace to be thrown away for a Slavic Country called Ukraine , but they were only to happy to help Germany kill Danes , Norwegians and Jews in WW11 . They already make a lot of money selling arms , and it would take Russia ten days to march into Stockholm once they finish off Ukraine which they will do have no doubt about that one . Race Riots all over Sweden by Far Right Nutcases , War Mongers to the left and right of me and the Sweden I knew is no more , gone dead on arrival . Best of luck .

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Sweden and Finland formally invited to become Nato members

Nato leaders agreed on Wednesday to formally invite Finland and Sweden to join the alliance after Turkey struck a deal with the Nordic duo to drop its objections, a statement said.

Sweden and Finland formally invited to become Nato members

“Today, we have decided to invite Finland and Sweden to become members of Nato, and agreed to sign the Accession Protocols,” a declaration from a summit in Madrid said.

The statement on the invitation, point 18 out of 20 in the declaration, stressed the importance of the trilateral memorandum struck with Turkey on Tuesday night. 
“In any accession to the Alliance, it is of vital importance that the legitimate security concerns of all Allies are properly addressed,” the declaration reads. “We welcome the conclusion of the trilateral memorandum between Türkiye, Finland, and Sweden to that effect.”
Finland and Sweden joining Nato “will make them safer, Nato stronger, and the Euro-Atlantic area more secure,” the declaration continue. 
It also reiterated security guarantees given by Nato countries, stating that during the accession process the security of Sweden and Finland would be “of direct importance to the Alliance”. 

During a meeting with Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the start of the meeting, US President Joe Biden said that Sweden and Finland’s accession to the defence alliance showed that the strategy of Vladimir Putin had failed. 
“It demonstrates that President Putin has not succeeded in closing Nato’s door. He’s getting the opposite of what he wants,” he said. “He wants less Nato. President Putin is getting more Nato, while Finland Sweden are joining our Alliance.” 

Lithuania’s President Gitanas Nauséda said that it was likely that byt he time his country hosts Nato’s next summit in Riga next year, both Finland and Sweden will be members.