NATO2024March 2024Russia-UkraineInternational NewsEurope

Sweden Finally Joins NATO

Aidan Ishaan Raman Bogan

Staff Writer

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Effective as of March 7, 2024 the Kingdom of Sweden has officially joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO, becoming the 23rd member state to do so. The Swedish entry into NATO has been a gradual process encompassing the change in national diplomatic policy regarding military alliances as well as the shifting popular domestic sentiments which placed their country in neutrality, apart from the conflicts seen in the rest of Europe. 

National security interests on the continent continue to draw themselves into attention as Russian expansionism and militant aggression encourages many countries to seek the assistance and assurance of the United States and NATO. According to Al Jazeera the Swedish Prime Minister, Ulf Kristersson, reportedly said, “Unity and solidarity will be Sweden’s guiding lights as a NATO member,” in response to Washington. With the expansion of NATO in Northern Europe, as seen in the Republic of Finland on May 18, 2022 and now as well to be seen in Sweden, the strength of the mutual defensive alliance in the 21st century has become ever more assuredly affirmed.

This recent turn of events displays that the longstanding paradigm of Swedish neutrality has ended. After the conclusion of the Napoleonic Wars, it became the policy of the Swedish state to abstain from major international conflicts as seen later in the world wars. There have indeed been beneficial mutual relations between NATO and Sweden in the past as according to NATO, “Cooperation began when Sweden joined the Partnership for Peace Programme (PfP) in 1994 and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (a multilateral forum for dialogue that brings together all Allies and partner countries in the Euro-Atlantic area) in 1997. 

For many years prior to its accession, Sweden had been one of NATO’s most active partners and a valued contributor to the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan, the Kosovo Force (KFOR) in Kosovo and NATO Mission Iraq (NMI). Within these acts of collaboration following the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the conclusion of the Cold War, Sweden has been growing out of its previously held neutrality in response to new geopolitical pressures. 

Among the largest changes in contemporary European politics and the general security of the continent has been the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Continuing the previous campaign of territorial expansionism which had been observed previously in the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, the controversial presidency of Vladimir Putin has encouraged the countries of Europe in reasonable proximity to the Russian Federation to seek the assurance of defense. The potential Russian capacity for warfare in Eastern Europe is noted by several states in the region as according to CNBC, Finland became an official member of NATO in response to Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine. Both nations, Sweden and Finland, felt that the Russian invasion threatened their safety, which prompted them to apply to join the alliance. With the present threat of invasion from Russia being recognized by the Nordic nations who have maintained abstention from international alliances, the future of the region will now be determined by their willingness to cooperate with the other fellow liberal democracies of Europe.

In previous years, when Sweden had been in the process of joining NATO, there had been considerable opposition from several of the participating member states such as Hungary and Türkiye. According to CNBC Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban had at once pushed back on allowing Sweden into the alliance due to their criticism against the state of democracy in Hungary while Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was against the admittance due to Sweden not recognizing organizations in opposition to Turkey’s current government to be a security threat such as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party and People’s Defense Units. 

Internal criticism of Sweden entering into NATO has arisen both from the left and right wing of national politics as nonalignment was popular for various differing sociopolitical reasons. The Green Party (Miljöpartiet de gröna) and the Left Party (Vänsterpartiet) of Sweden remained in opposition to cooperation with NATO, viewing this as the country entering into international military conflicts which had little to benefit the general population and more within the interest of foreign corporate interests. The Swedish Democrats (Sverigedemokraterna) represent the opposite end of the political framework due to their far-right beliefs, nationalist populism, and antagonism of immigration, yet maintain a similar skepticism of NATO as they uphold that Sweden must remain sovereign and apart from foreign military assistance. 

As the newly established member state of Sweden coordinates with NATO in defensive strategizing and military training it can be observed that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has worked to further connect European nations into a Western power bloc. Having a large coastline with the Baltic Sea and having the particularly nautically advantageous island of Gotland, Sweden stands as an important feature of the new member if NATO and its allies seek to counter the Russian naval presence in the port facilities of Kaliningrad and Saint Petersburg.

Image courtesy of Getty Images

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