Sweden has a long-standing policy of neutrality and nonalignment and has no ambition to join the eurozone. But the country may need to rethink its policy, writes Antonia Colibasanu.
Antonia Colibasanu is Europe Director with Stratfor, a Texas-based global intelligence company.
"Since early March, the Swedish media have been a stage for intense debate regarding the country’s defence and security policy. A Russian flyover near Sweden’s airspace prompted Danish NATO fighter jets stationed in Lithuania to shadow the Russian jets, since Sweden was reportedly unprepared to respond to the manoeuvre.
This incident intensified the already existing debate over Sweden’s non-alignment policy. The discussion sharpened further after a meeting between Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in Minsk on 23 April concluded with the announcement that Russia will deploy four advanced anti-missile batteries to Belarus in 2014.
This carries the Russian military buildup in the proximity of the Baltic region to a new level, within the context of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, something that clearly makes Sweden nervous. This situation underlines a key question:
This seems to be a difficult question to answer at a time when the eurozone is facing unprecedented troubles and NATO seems still to be reassessing its purpose in the aftermath of the Cold War.
The two institutions are in transition, and both seem to be undergoing a process of political fragmentation. The pessimists consider these institutions’ transitions to be proof that they are in fact beginning to fail. The optimists see the challenges in the transition, but they say that Europe has never made any progress without first being made to face a challenge.
The realists see the nationalism growing in European states (and the accompanying anti-EU feeling) and the diminishing level of trust between the member states, and they believe the crisis will lead to the formation of a multiple-speed Europe.
Talk of an EU defense policy is somewhat futuristic. The European Union lacks a true understanding of the terms “emergency” and “decision”. The meetings and the councils are not meant to serve or even to establish a defense policy, and with so-called “égoïsme sacré” (the holy national interest) growing everywhere in the EU due to the continent’s economic problems, we will most likely not see meaningful action on EU defense capabilities any time soon.
Back to Sweden. As an EU member, it will probably opt to stay out of the eurozone for the time being and will most likely continue to enhance defense cooperation with some NATO countries and with other Nordic states. Sweden is not the only country opting for such a policy.
While the Visegrad group is not yet a vigorous organisation, Poland would like it to see it evolve into a viable supplement if not an alternative to NATO – an organisation that would ensure and improve regional defense amongst its member states, which also include the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia.
Countries across Europe are grappling with the same kind of choices facing Sweden and Poland. The circumstances in which these two countries find themselves thus vividly demonstrate the transition the continent is undergoing."
This analysis was first published in Antonia Colibasahu’s blog with EURACTIV.