Sweden, along with its neighbor Finland, are preparing to knock on the doors of NATO in the coming days due to the risks to their security that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has shown. In the national debate in which the Nordic country is now immersed, a key question hovers: what protection will Stockholm be able to count on while the integration process lasts? Until the 30 allies ratify the accession treaty, Sweden will not be able to count on the umbrella of the Article 5 of the Washington Treatywhich guarantees mutual defense in case one of the Member States is attacked.
In recent statements to public television SVT, the Swedish Defense Minister, Peter Hultqvistanticipates a greater NATO military presence in the Baltic region to deter Russia from any aggressive action.
“If we are going to join NATO, it is very important that there is some kind of guarantee from the countries within NATO that they are prepared to defend Sweden and Finland,” explains Hultqvist. “The practical expression can be the presence of air combat forces in the area, the presence of naval units, troops that participate in various exercises,” lists the Minister of Defense, who prefers to talk about security insurance and commitments of the Atlantic Alliance .
Hultqvist takes for granted “a greater military presence from the countries with which we normally cooperate and on the side of NATO.” As an example, the Social Democratic leader mentions the guided missile destroyer USS Forrest Shermanwhich visited Stockholm in March, and ships from various NATO countries that visited Stockholm in April.
Specifically, several sources close to the government confirmed the promises of security guarantees that the United States and the United Kingdom have offered to Sweden, according to the newspaper “Aftonbladet” on April 25.
The promises, according to these sources, cover a greater military presence, intensified military exercises and “strong political support” from NATO countries to Sweden if it finally requests its accession to the military organization.
During the months that the accession period continues, Sweden would be more vulnerable to a Russian attack, a risk taken seriously in light of repeated Russian threats against the integration of Stockholm and Helsinki into NATO.
“Declarations that Sweden will not be protected or supported during a possible application process play into the hands of Russia,” a government source warned “Aftonbladet”.
Precisely, the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, visits Stockholm tomorrow, where he will meet with his Swedish counterpart, Magdalena Anderson, with whom he will have the opportunity to talk about the situation in Europe after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as well as Sweden’s possible application for NATO membership. Hours later, Johnson is scheduled to travel to Helsinki, where he will meet with the Finnish Prime Minister, sanna marin.
In the opinion of the Swedish Defense Minister, the integration of Sweden and Finland in the Alliance would strengthen Nordic security. “Of course it would mean a very different strategic depth, a very strong signal in security policy and a solid platform for Nordic defense cooperation within the NATO framework,” Hultqvist told Sweden’s public radio station in an interview. that in the past he had been against Sweden abandoning its military non-alignment.
The next few days are key for the Social Democratic governments in Stockholm and Helsinki to make a decision on an application for membership that is already considered secure. ““There is a before and an after February 24”, notes Hultqvist. This Sunday, the Swedish Social Democratic Party (SAP) will announce its new position on the Atlantic Alliance after decades of rejecting a membership, which it feared would reduce the autonomy of Swedish foreign policy. A day earlier the Finnish Social Democrats (SDP) will also announce their position. All this will pave the way for the announcement to be ready during the visit of the President of Finland, Sauli Niinistö, to Stockholm, scheduled for May 17 and 18.