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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 to join Nato: ‘We are leaving one era and entering another”

Sweden on Monday officially announced it will apply for Nato membership as a deterrent against Russian aggression, entering a "new era" as it reverses two centuries of military non-alignment.

Sweden to join Nato: 'We are leaving one era and entering another''

In a joint press conference held with Ulf Kristersson, leader of the opposition Moderate Party, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said joining the alliance would act as a deterrent against Russian aggression. 

“The government has decided to inform Nato that Sweden wants to become a member of the alliance,” Andersson told reporters a day after neighbouring Finland made a similar announcement.

“We are leaving one era and beginning another,” she said, adding that Sweden’s Nato ambassador would “shortly” inform Nato.

Ulf Kristersson, whose party has long supported membership of the alliance, said that he wanted to put party political differences aside to support the government in its decision.  

“There are many major issues where we think differently, but we are going to take a joint responsibility for the process of taking Sweden into Nato,” he said. 

Sweden and Finland have both expressed a desire to act in lockstep on Nato membership and submit their applications jointly.

“We expect it shouldn’t take more than a year” for the alliance’s 30 members to unanimously ratify Sweden’s membership application, Andersson said.

The announcement was expected after her Social Democratic party on Sunday backed membership, in a dramatic turnaround after having opposed the idea since the birth of the Western military alliance.

It came after a debate in parliament in which all parties apart from the Green Party and Left Party spoke in favour of Sweden joining the alliance.  

“It is now clear that there is a broad majority in Sweden’s parliament for Sweden joining Nato,” she said. 

After Sweden’s announcement, Denmark, Norway and Iceland published a joint statement in which they promised to Sweden “by all means necessary” if the country is attacked in the gap between application and admission to the alliance. 

“Should Finland or Sweden be victims of aggression on their territory before obtaining Nato membership, we will assist Finland and Sweden by all means necessary,” the three countries said. “We immediately initiate preparations in order to effectuate these security assurances.”

Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, said on Monday that Sweden and Finland joining Nato did not represent a direct threat to Russia’s interests, but he said that if Nato began to site equipment on their territories, Russia would have to respond. 

“Russia has no problems with these states (Finland, Sweden). There is no immediate threat to Russia,” he said at a meeting of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, which groups Russia with Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

“But the expansion of military infrastructure into this territory would certainly provoke our response,” he said.  

Sweden’s defence minister Peter Hultqvist is flying to Washington on Monday, where he will meet his counterpart Lloyd Austin.