Swedish security report says NATO membership would deter conflict

Swedish Minister of Defense Peter Hultqvist (5-L) and Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs Ann Linde (C) and Sweden's security policy analysis group announced their report during a press conference in Stockholm, Sweden, 13 May 2022. [EPA-EFE/Henrik Montgomery]

A day after Finland’s leaders said the country must seek NATO membership for its own security’s sake, Sweden published a revised security policy review from parliamentary parties on Friday (13 May), highlighting the advantage of becoming a member of the alliance.

“Swedish NATO membership would raise the threshold for military conflicts and thus have a deterrent effect in Northern Europe,” the review said, adding that “within the framework of current cooperation, there is no guarantee that Sweden would be helped if it were the target of a serious threat or attack.”

The report stopped short of offering a concrete recommendation, although expectations are high that Sweden will follow Finland when the government announces its decisions in the coming days.

It clearly stated that NATO membership would work as a deterrent if Russia wanted to invade Sweden.

As another positive for NATO accession, the review concluded that it is “not realistic to develop bilateral defence alliances outside existing European and Euro-Atlantic structures.”

Sweden could apply next week

Earlier on Thursday, Expressen newspaper reported that Sweden’s government plans to apply to join NATO next week.

Sweden’s parliament will debate the security situation on Monday, and Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson will call a special cabinet meeting where the formal decision to apply will be taken, Expressen said, citing unnamed sources.

An application will be sent directly after that, assuming nothing unexpected occurs, sources told the daily.

Sweden’s Foreign Minister Ann Linde noted that both Finnish and Swedish memberships would be considered “negative” by Russia, but she told reporters that they did not anticipate a “conventional military attack” in reaction to a potential application.

She did, however, state that “an armed assault against Sweden cannot be ruled out.”

The report also noted that “Russian provocation and retaliatory measures against Sweden cannot be ruled out during a transition period”, citing “cyberattacks and other forms of hybrid attacks”.

“Russia will be weakened militarily by its war of aggression against Ukraine for some time to come,” but said it would be able to “carry out limited acts of violence against Sweden, such as sabotage by Russian special forces units or operations using long-range weapons.”

Both countries have been militarily non-aligned for decades, but public and political support for joining the military alliance has taken a sharp uptake after 24 February when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

With Nordics set to join NATO, Estonia wants to close Baltic security gaps

In Estonia, Finland and Sweden’s looming NATO accession is seen as a spectacular flop for Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and an opportunity to close a gap in Baltic Sea security.

[Edited by Alice Taylor]

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