NATO will reduce Sweden’s security, peace
Published: Mar 04, 2024 05:04 PM
Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Why did Sweden abandon its 200-year-long stay out of war and its contemporary non-aligned and neutral status, which had served it so well?

Previously, Sweden was a country that shaped its own policies through constant research, education and dialogue with its citizens. Its foreign policy focused on things like global disarmament, nuclear abolition, solidarity with small countries such as Vietnam, Cuba and the anti-colonial liberation struggles, robust UN and UN peacekeeping and adherence to international law. 

All that had been canceled long before the war in Ukraine. Sweden's elites under the leadership of the Social Democratic party stroke when the iron was hot: We must join NATO now because, after Ukraine, Russia will continue to occupy Sweden - all of it or Southern Sweden or the island of Gotland. Such threat perception and scenarios were never documented or argued, they were postulated and created the desired anxiety among its citizens.

Undoubtedly, the US has pushed Sweden's elites hard, wooing them for years, like in Ukraine. Just look at the map to see how close the US/NATO would get to the Russian border with Sweden and Finland inside. And neither of the two leaders, nor their ministers at the time, was known for any competence in security and peace. In Sweden, there was a saying: We have now been engaged to NATO for a long time, so why not get married?

Sweden's military and political elites repeated two things - as alarming as nonsensical - that "the Russians are coming" and "no-choice-but-NATO now" - abdicating every independent analysis and criticism of war, militarism and nuclearism. No comprehensive study about the pros and cons of NATO membership on different time horizons or scenarios was made. The public debate was emotional and populist.

Sweden sent its NATO application with only 48 percent in favor and 27 percent unsure what to think. A referendum was never seriously contemplated. Given the historic proportions, this should be unheard of in a Western democracy.

To summarize these 40 years leading up to Sweden's NATO membership: a remarkable intellectual disarmament coupled with one weak-minded militarist alternative that would not have survived a broader debate about all the other alternatives.

It meant submission and loss of sovereignty - more loyalty to Washington and Brussels than to Sweden's interests.

What will be the likely consequences?

First, a mind-boggling further submission under the US. In no time, the Swedish government has signed a bilateral agreement with the US about no less than 17 base facilities nationwide. Given its details, Sweden has handed over every bit of right and control to the Americans who will operate under US, not Swedish, jurisdiction.

Nobody knows whether the US can bring nuclear weapons into Sweden. The US is not mentioned, and Sweden will never ask as the standard arrogant US reply is that "we neither confirm nor deny." But what is known is that conservative Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, on the third day of his premiership, stated at a press conference with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg that Sweden would live up to all its obligations in NATO including NATO's nuclear doctrine.

As far as I know, he had no mandate from the people or parliament to make that statement.

Second, the Swedes will become less secure. There will be harder borders, confrontation and less time to react politically in a crisis situation. Sweden will serve as one more near-forward operation area for NATO; beyond any doubt, Russian missiles have already been re-directed to target Sweden early. Russia had no reason to target a neutral, peaceful Sweden, but a NATO member that has doubled its military budget and hosts 17 US bases is, of course, a different story.

Furthermore, there will be no traditional confidence-building measures, consultations, or military cooperation that have helped reduce tensions with the Soviet Union/Russia before, nor will there be conflict-management mechanisms or mediation. Future US proposals to participate in warfare somewhere must be understood as offers you can't refuse.

This implies also a Swedish co-responsibility for future wars, violations of international law, mass killings and nuclear weapons policies.

It will cost enormous additional sums for the Swedish taxpayers - and much-needed civilian investments in health, education, infrastructure, new technology and culture will have to be sacrificed. You cannot have your cake and eat it, too.

So, all in all, a higher price for more risks and less security. Without a single conditionality, Sweden joined NATO, which is history's most militaristic organization. Its leader, the US, has been at war 225 out of 243 years since 1776. Every idea about nonviolence, the UN Charter provision of making peace by predominantly peaceful means (Article 1 in the Charter), global disarmament and nuclear abolition will go out the window.

Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark have agreed to give the US, the leader of NATO, access to 40 military bases, which will only increase tension in the important Arctic region. This highlights another serious consequence of NATO membership: By joining NATO, the Nordic countries, including Sweden, will have to align with the declining West in the ongoing world order change in which China, the Middle East, Africa, South America and large non-Western regional associations will gain strength.

It would have been wiser to prepare for balancing relations with both the Western and Global South and East regions in order to move toward a more peaceful world. 

The author is the director of the Sweden-based think tank Transnational Foundation for Peace & Future Research. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn