Exeter, Devon UK • May 27, 2024 • VOL XII

Exeter, Devon UK • [date-today] • VOL XII
Home News Sweden joins NATO: what this means for the alliance

Sweden joins NATO: what this means for the alliance

Henry Anderson writes on Sweden's recent entry into NATO and its implications on international affairs
4 mins read
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Image: FinnishGovernment via WikiMediaCommons

On 7 March 2024, Sweden officially became a part of NATO. The Scandinavian country, sandwiched between Norway and Finland, applied for membership after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It follows Finland, which joined almost a year ago in April 2023.   

Traditionally a neutral country, Sweden has broken its 200-year run of non-alignment by signing up to the alliance. Swedish officials have made it clear that the move is a direct result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which caused them to fear what Russia might do to its other neighbours and to seek safety in the arms of the NATO alliance. A mere day after joining, Swedish forces joined other NATO troops on exercise Steadfast defender, a direct attempt to deter Russia. The exercise, occurring all along the Eastern flank of NATO, consists of 90,000 soldiers from across the alliance, and will test new plans to move troops and supplies, as well as help to integrate the new allies, Sweden and Finland. Interviewing soldiers on the ground, the BBC reported said that a Swedish marine had commented that he felt “super safe” now that his nation was a part of NATO. The Swedish defence minister said that the ascension of his country, alongside Finland, was the “mother of all unintended consequences” for Moscow.

Swedish officials have made it clear that the move is a direct result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

However, reservations are present, especially in Sweden’s well established peace movement. A renowned movement which was very active during the Cold War, protesting the Vietnam War and nuclear weapons, it has been on the decline since the collapse of the eastern bloc. Still, it continues to exist, and one of its leaders, Anna Sundström, leader of the Olof Palme International Centre in Stockholm, has said that the language around Sweden ascension and the warning of war with Russia is dangerous and “reckless”. Representatives of the movement fear that the move will antagonise Russia and make war more, not less, likely. Russia has criticized the move as harmful to Baltic security and said that it will be forced to respond, but also added that much will depend on the nature of Sweden’s integration into NATO. In other words, Russia will respond to military changes, not the fact that Sweden had joined the alliance. 

Representatives of the movement fear that the move will antagonise Russia and make war more, not less, likely

The implications of Sweden joining are far reaching, especially militarily. Unlike other nations which have joined NATO in the past, Sweden maintains a modern, well-armed, and well-trained military. Its Gripen fighter aircraft and Leopard II tanks are the pinnacle of military technology, and like many Scandinavian countries, it retains a semi-conscription policy, meaning large numbers of the country have military experience. Geographically, it is well placed to help control the Baltic Sea and serves as a potential land transit route to resupply Norway and Finland.  

Sweden is NATO’s 32nd member but has been a partner of the alliance since the 1990s. The alliance comprises countries stretching across Europe, from the UK and Portugal all the way to Finland, Poland, and Hungary.  

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