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INTERVIEW: ‘We, as Moderates, should be good winners on Nato’

Hans Wallmark, foreign policy spokesperson for the opposition Moderate Party, tells The Local that the Social Democrats' imminent decision to support Nato membership for Sweden should be celebrated.

INTERVIEW: 'We, as Moderates, should be good winners on Nato'
Moderate foreign policy spokesperson Hans Wallmark. Photo Henrik Montgomery/TT

When Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24th, Sweden’s opposition Moderate Party moved quickly to turn their longstanding support for Nato into a campaigning issue in the run-up this September’s election. With the Social Democrats due on Sunday to shift their position and back Nato, this will no longer be possible. But this does not worry Hans Wallmark, the Moderate Party’s foreign policy spokesperson. 

“I think we, as Moderates, should behave as good winners, not bad winners,” he told The Local on Wednesday night. “The national interest is always bigger and more important than the party interest. So if this current government takes Sweden into Nato, we are going to hail it, and then hopefully, in four or five months from now, we’re going to continue the work as the new government.” 

Wallmark has over the past month been closely involved in the Nato process, as the Moderate Party’s appointee on the Swedish government’s security policy analysis group, which is due to publish its report on Sweden’s security options on Friday. 

“It is a good and comprehensive report,” he says of the result of the group’s six meetings, adding that, in his view, it is not a serious problem if the Left and the Green parties, which are both opposed to Nato membership, dissent from its conclusions. 

He said that his party had been calling for the establishment of such a group since December 2020, when parliament voted for Sweden to have a so-called ‘Nato option’ as part of its security policy. 

“But the government refused that, and then suddenly, some weeks before Easter, they invited us to this analysis group,” he remembers. 

When the government launched the group before Easter, the Social Democrats still did not know which way they were going to swing, he believes. 

“We could all then see that Finland was quite rapidly on its way to a Nato membership, so I think when the government invited the other parties, they, for that moment, didn’t really know what way they should take. But after a while, it was more and more clear that the Social Democratic Party was changing its mind due to the harsh reality of pressure from Finland.” 
 
Even previous sceptics of Nato membership within the Social Democrats found it hard to justify staying out of the alliance if Finland joined. “Because if Finland joins Nato, then it would have been absurd, and I would say, defence strategically, totally impossible to stay outside.”
 
Wallmark argues that if Finland joined Nato and Sweden didn’t, the two countries would no longer be able to work together in the same way with common defence planning, severely weakening Sweden’s security. 
“With Finland inside Nato, it would be quite impossible for Finland to have this openness in defence planning with Sweden, in the same way as it is with Norway and Denmark today. They can’t do the same defence planning with us as we do with Finland, because they are Nato members, and we are not.” 
 
The purpose of the group then shifted from a stalling tactic, to a way of convincing the Social Democrat rank and file of a need to shift policy. “After a while, it turned out to be a tool for the Social Democratic Party to use to explain why they are changing position.” 
 
Wallmark believes that pressure from Finland and the threat from Russia had both played a part in the Social Democrats’ decision, but he said electoral calculations had also come into play. 
 
“I truly believe that the war since February 24th is one part of the equation, but also, I think that the risk of having Nato defence and security as election issues is absolutely also part of the equation that made the party change its mind,” he says. 
 
As a result, he says, he fears that the Social Democrats might be joining the Nato security alliance for the wrong reasons, seeing it simply as protection for Sweden, rather than an organisation through which Sweden can take positive action to improve the security climate in Europe and the world. 
 
“I think that we shouldn’t join Nato because we are afraid for our own skin. I think that we should join Nato for its own logic and reasons, and that is Article 5, and the common defence planning. So, therefore, I’m a little afraid that the Social Democrats are walking into Nato with the back in the front.”
 
“I think that the main reason for joining NATO is that Sweden can contribute to the common security in our part of the world. And Article 5 and the common defence planning have been good reasons for 20 years,” he adds. “And now we see how the Social Democrats are changing their mind in well, 20 hours or 20 days.” 
 
Wallmark says that the Political Declaration of Solidarity the UK signed with Sweden on Wednesday should not be seen primarily as security for Sweden during the gap between applying to join Nato and becoming a member. It is, he argues, an expression of support Sweden has been pushing for ever since the UK left the European Union. 
 
“It goes back much longer, and is much deeper, and of greater importance [than the Nato process], especially as a political signal that we really want to deepen the cooperation with the United Kingdom, even if the UK is outside and we are inside the EU,” he said. “The centre-right parties with the Moderates in the front have really worked for the government to establish this kind of arrangement.” 
 
With Sweden’s Nato application likely to be announced within days, Wallmark believes that Sweden should be ready for a reaction from Russia. But he expects that Russia will end up accepting the new reality.
 
“I think it’s absolutely necessary to be prepared. But we can also see the pattern. Nato has extended, it is now 30 countries… and Russia has barked and showed publicly how disappointed it is, but they have, in the end, accepted the reality.”
 
“So I think that we absolutely can see things happening in cyber attacks or fake news. But in the end, I think that they are going to accept it.”

Member comments

  1. Shut up you amateur and go play golf , Turkey have blocked your evil intentions . You know nothing about War , suffering , only Greed and Collaboration in evil and Russia did not send one soldier just called up their good friend in Turkey and messed you up .

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NATO

Sweden’s PM Magdalena Andersson in US to visit President Biden

Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson is in Washington today alongside Finland’s president Sauli Niinistö. The two will visit US President Joe Biden to discuss the war in Ukraine and Turkey’s opposition to their Nato applications, which were handed in yesterday.

Sweden's PM Magdalena Andersson in US to visit President Biden

“The meeting is an important security policy signal,” Andersson wrote on her Instagram account from Washington DC.

The two Nordic leaders boarded their flight to Washington shortly after their Nato ambassadors applied to join the alliance on Wednesday morning.

At the meeting in the White House today, the delicate security situation in both Finland and Sweden will be discussed.

The US has given security assurances to the two countries during the gap between their applications to join Nato and the accession as members, as have Britain, France, Germany, Denmark, Norway and Iceland. 

“Biden Finland and Sweden are longtime, stalwart partners of the United States. By joining Nato, they will further strengthen our defence cooperation and benefit the entire Transatlantic Alliance,” Biden said in his statement. 

The US would maintain its “robust exercise activity and presence” in the Baltic Sea region, he added.

“While their applications for Nato membership are being considered, the United States will work with Finland and Sweden to remain vigilant against any threats to our shared security, and to deter and confront aggression or the threat of aggression.” 

Another issue on the agenda will be how to respond to Turkey’s moves to block the process until Sweden and Finland meet demands to, among other things, extradite people in Sweden the country claims are linked to terror organisations and end  its embargo on weapons sales to Sweden. 

The US, as the most powerful country in the alliance, could be able to put pressure on Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, to back down, or offer other concessions, perhaps over its wish to buy US F-16 fighter jets.  

Andersson spoke to Biden on the phone on Friday and met him in Brussels at the end of March, but this is her first visit to Washington as prime minister. 

Final approval for Sweden and Finland’s bid could take up to a year, and Russia is expected to react to the two countries joining Nato in some way.

Sweden and Finland’s decision to join the Nato alliance was applauded by Ukrainians taking part in a demonstration outside the White House.

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