Why It’s Time: The Case for Swedish Membership in NATO

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A watershed moment occurred in European security during the early months of 2014, when Russian forces occupied the Crimean peninsula and subsequently claimed that the territory was part of the Russian Federation.[1] Immediately after the successful overtaking of Crimea, “pro-Russian militias” began demanding independence from Kiev for regions in the eastern part of Ukraine, most notably Donetsk. Within weeks, the event had clearly shifted the paradigm of European security and the strategic balance on the continent. Russia had successfully changed the de facto borders of the continent through military means, while assembling troops with heavy weapons along the border of Ukraine. The relative calm that had marked the security relations between Russia and Western Europe since the collapse of the Soviet Union appears to have ended.

The events of 2014 should serve as a rude awakening to Sweden and re-ignite the Swedish conversation about membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Sweden should join NATO as soon as possible in order to provide a credible territorial defense, balance the security interests of Sweden and other regional actors, enhance the influence of the country within the European security context, and reap the benefits of coordinated defense and interoperability that participation in NATO would provide.

Non-Alignment and Neutrality

Sweden has managed to stay out of major wars for roughly 200 years, after its last encounter with Russia during the Napoleonic Wars cost the country nearly half its territory, constituting much of present-day Finland. Since then, Sweden has been ostensibly free of military alliances, which allowed it to stay out of World War I.[2] After being reminded of the brutality of war in the early 20th century, Swedish efforts to increase its defense saw the introduction of conscription and a reformation of the defense structure during the first decades of the 20th century. The first democratic parliament, assembled in 1921 after the first election with universal suffrage, continued the policies of military nonalignment. Consequently, Sweden declared itself neutral at the onset of World War II,[3] and remained so throughout the conflict.[4]

At the beginning of the Cold War, and with the formations of the Warsaw Pact and NATO, Sweden reiterated its doctrine of military non-alignment in peacetime, aspired to neutrality in wartime,[5] and began constructing a defense apparatus on its own, deemed capable to withstand potential aggression. This policy of maintaining an indigenous defensive structure, referred to in Swedish as invasionsförsvar, required full-scale operability of all major battle systems, including attack aircraft, submarines, battle tanks and a sizeable navy, in addition to infantry and coastal artillery. With broad political consensus in Sweden to pursue the measure, this policy was upheld by large defense expenditures and conscription of the vast majority of the young male population to supply manpower to the large army.[6] To further underline its policy of military non-alignment, Sweden committed to developing its own advanced weaponry,[7] leading to domestic production of all major navy ships, submarines and fighter aircraft. Defense materiel was provided by a large, government-subsidized weapons industry, including the major Swedish companies Bofors, Kockums and SAAB Aerospace.[8]

Sweden adhered to this policy in principle, and to a lesser degree in practice,[9] until the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s. However, with the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union disbanded, the security landscape of Northern Europe and the Baltic Region underwent drastic change, and Sweden successively deviated from its policy of military non-alignment and freedom of alliances.

Cooperation Short of An Alliance

Almost immediately after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, Sweden submitted its official application for membership in the EU.[10] Subsequently, Sweden joined the European Union,[11] became a member of NATO’s Partnership for Peace (PfP),[12] and significantly cut military expenditures. It also played a part in rebuilding and equipping the newly independent Baltic countries’ armed forces.[13] By 2009, the Swedish defense structure against foreign invasions was entirely disbanded, and the armed forces were restructured to solve tasks chiefly as an expeditionary force in the service of the UN, NATO, or the EU.[14] As a consequence, NATO’s prominence in Swedish military contexts increased drastically. Sweden deployed soldiers to NATO’s operations in the Balkans and contributed to NATO’s ISAF mission in Afghanistan shortly after its establishment. Sweden modernized its military equipment and personnel structure with the explicit goal of NATO interoperability. Fundamental parts of the Cold War neutrality, such as a large domestic military, have been completely disbanded, and Sweden is now an integral part of NATO’s foreign operations. Yet, despite the high level of cooperation, Sweden is still not a member of NATO.

Outside of the NATO context, Sweden has initiated numerous defense agreements within the Nordic community. Sweden, Norway, and Finland conduct joint aerial exercises almost daily, and the amphibious forces of Sweden and Finland, Amf1 and Nylandsbrigaden, respectively, exercise and cooperate closely. Sweden has led the EU’s multinational standing quick-reaction battle group twice,[15] and is currently leading it today.[16] During the EU’s counter-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden, Sweden has twice been at the helm of the deployed naval units. In 2014, Sweden codified the special bond entering a host nation support agreement,[17] which will provide new possibilities for NATO and Sweden to coordinate and execute exercises and operations in Sweden.[18] Increasingly, the freedom from alliances described by leading Swedish politicians is confronted by a reality of bilateral, multilateral, and regional defense cooperation, which leaves the policy bereft of credibility.

A New Security Paradigm

Despite the fact that NATO membership continues to elude Sweden, reforms are underway. The pinnacle of these security policy reforms was the announcement and subsequent ratification of the 2009 Solidarity Proclamation (Solidaritetsförklaringen).[19] The proclamation concluded that Sweden’s security depended on that of its neighbors, that Sweden “is a country that builds security with others,” that it relies on others for assistance,[20] and that it would not and could not “remain passive if a catastrophe or an attack would occur in a EU member-state or a Nordic country.”[21] The proclamation noted that “an option of neutrality is impossible” in the case of a conflict in or against the European Union, Norway, or Iceland. It stated, “the Government expects these countries to act in the same fashion, if a catastrophe or attack takes place in or against Sweden. Sweden should have the ability to give and receive military aid.” The Solidarity Proclamation has since been reiterated on a number of occasions,[22] including by Minister of Defense Sten Tolgfors in a speech given to the Folk och Försvar Conference of 2010.[23] By then, the Baltic Sea had been transformed almost entirely into a Mare Nostrum of the European Union, as Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia had joined NATO. In conjunction with the Solidarity Proclamation, Sweden announced national military conscription to be “dormant” until further notice[24], ushering in the exclusive use of professional volunteer soldiers.

By 2013, new signs indicated that the safe waters of the Baltic Sea had become dangerous. Due in part to the significant increase in Russian military expenditures, Russian armed forces began exercising in the Baltic region with increased frequency and with new equipment, often close to the territory of Nordic states. In an event that became known in Sweden as Russian Easter (Ryska Påsken), two Russian bombers and four fighter aircraft departed an airbase in St. Petersburg, patrolled the Stockholm Archipelago, and rounded the Swedish island of Gotland. Despite the proximity to Swedish territory, the Swedish Air Force did not dispatch aircraft to monitor Russian activity. The incident received considerable media coverage and ignited discussions in Stockholm about the capability of the Air Force to respond to territorial incursions. Despite Swedish government and military officials arguing that the situation had been under control, the Swedish public saw the incident as a failure of policy.

Since Ryska Påsken, the previous trickle of Russian provocations and territorial incursions vis-à-vis Sweden and other countries has turned into a flood.[25] In the aftermath of the Crimean invasion, Russia has increased flights over the Baltic and introduced new types of military aircraft, including strategic long-distance bombers.[26] Considering this change, and the long history of Russian territorial incursions into Sweden’s airspace and waters, it is no wonder that politicians, newspapers, experts, and the public alike pointed towards Russia when signs of a foreign submarine appeared in the Stockholm archipelago in October 2014. Russia has denied any such allegations[27], although General Göranson, along with Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and Minister of Defense Peter Hultqvist presented what they considered conclusive evidence of foreign submarine activity. In the words of General Göranson, this constituted a “severe and unacceptable intrusion by a foreign power.”[28]

Sweden’s Choice

Considering the re-emergence of a belligerent and aggressive geopolitical force in eastern and northern Europe, Sweden faces two options if it is to maintain a credible defense: either revert to a policy of complete indigenous defense or join NATO.

If Sweden were to revert to a strategy of neutrality and military non-alignment, paired with large domestic military capability, it would have to reverse the development of the past decades, reconstruct the invasionsförsvar, reassemble the disbanded regiments, and return to relying on a policy of conscription for the defense of its territory. This option comes with considerable difficulties. Politically, it would force a reassessment of the obligations and privileges of the European Union—if one member-state can maintain neutrality when another is attacked. Pragmatically, the reconstruction of defense capabilities that could counter the full extent of potential Russian threats on Swedish territory, including Gotland and the northernmost province of Norrbotten, would require immense increases in funding. To regain the size and capability of the Swedish Armed Forces of 1990, the Swedish Army would require 77 additional battalions, the Air Force would need an additional 220 aircraft, and the Home Guard would need to hire and train 102,000 soldiers.[29] Although technological advances in the last 25 years have enabled countries to scale down their investment in ground units, these numbers hint at the scale of such a reconstruction. Moreover, the costs of developing the advanced weaponry required is not evident in these statistics alone. The political will necessary to make such investments would be substantial, and based on the Swedish government’s propensity to use defense funds as a budget regulator,[30] it is unlikely that policymakers could persuade government to increase defense expenditures so dramatically.

If Sweden chooses not to construct a credible defense on its own, yet wants to maintain a military that can assert territorial integrity, the only other viable option is to join NATO. With NATO membership, Sweden would immediately be assigned a role within the alliance, and be allowed to focus on investing in the military capabilities that are necessary for the alliance as a whole. In a time of technologically advanced and exceedingly expensive military forces, pooling resources and assigning allied states specific responsibilities allows countries to access greater capability beyond their budgetary constraints. For example, the Netherlands and Belgium have completely disbanded their heavy armored units, and have instead focused on air and sea capabilities, including the construction of a joint navy.

Sweden would decide what specific military capabilities to prioritize and retain as a NATO member, but membership would allow Sweden to abandon “ability maintenance”—preserving small military capability across domains, including many it does not need in any operational capacity. Artillery, anti-aircraft infantry, and heavy battle tanks have low utility in expeditionary campaigns such as those undertaken by the Swedish military in the Balkans, Afghanistan, or off the coast of Somalia, but are still considered to be of strategic importance; under current policy, Sweden continuously upgrades and maintaines these at a significant cost.

As a NATO member, Sweden could redirect “ability maintenance” resources to promote more urgently needed specializations—such as further investment in submarine capability, upgrades within the Air Force, and the continued investment in expeditionary forces.[31] Critically, NATO membership would also allow large-scale synergies in the realm of “threshold abilities” (tröskelförmåga)—a central concept to Swedish defense. In short, the idea is to acquire abilities that significantly raise the difficulty and cost of all military aggressions, resembling a higher threshold.[32] NAT membership would help bridge the gap between Sweden’s doctrinal demands and its armed forces’ capabilities.

In addition to rendering Sweden better protected with a credible defense, NATO membership would provide some political balance in Swedish security policy. Under Article 222 of the Lisbon Treaty—of which Sweden is a signatory—a member states is bound to come to the aid of other signatories in the event of terrorist attacks and other catastrophes, and must “mobilize all instruments at its disposal,” including military assets. Furthermore, Article 42.7 commits all members to aid any member state that “is the victim of armed aggression on its territory.” Despite the nominal flexibility granted by the Lisbon Treaty and enshrined in the Solidarity Proclamation, these factors have all contributed to imbalance in Swedish security, in regards to providing and receiving security guarantees. On the one hand, it vows—unilaterally and through Lisbon—to aid its EU partners and its Nordic neighbors. On the other, all of Sweden’s neighbors derive their defense commitments from NATO membership—and thus are obliged to Sweden on a state-to-state level alone.[33] Sweden chooses to incur responsibilities and costs without firm guarantees it would receive the same benefits in return—rendering a negative trade balance of security. As a 2014 Swedish government-commissioned report written by Ambassador Tomas Bertelman noted, the “extensive cooperation, in combination with our Solidarity Proclamation, usher us so close to NATO that we can hardly avoid being identified with it—while receiving neither the full effect of the cooperation, nor the solidary defense that membership would entail.”[34]

The Price of Membership

In becoming a NATO member, Sweden could achieve a much-needed balance in its security policy—assisting with, and receiving assurances of, military aid in the event of a crisis. Sweden would also join the 95 percent of the EU population that live in NATO countries,and would gain firm protection under Article Five’s common self-defense. It would clarify Sweden’s obligations to a stable European security policy—and that Sweden is owed similar assistance in case of need.

A re-occurring counterargument against Swedish membership in NATO centers on Moscow’s purported reaction.[35] The angst and anger Russia would feel as a result of a Swedish decision to join NATO would make Sweden a potential target of Russian aggression, and it would adversely affect both Swedish-Russian ties and regional security as a whole. However, this argument is based on a fundamental misconception—namely, that Russia considers Sweden a neutral, non-aligned country. In several crucial ways, that is not the case. Russia is aware of Sweden’s security commitments through the Solidarity Proclamation and the Lisbon Treaty, and that Sweden will side with any EU member state in case of a conflict.[36] Sweden’s close association with NATO in Libya and Afghanistan, its prioritized joint military exercises in Swedish territory,[37] and Sweden’s Partnership for Peace membership suggest a clear alignment with NATO—irrespective of its official non-member status. Russia is aware that a large and crucial part of Sweden’s military logistics capability is organized through the Heavy Airlift Wing, a joint venture based in Hungary between NATO, Finland, and Sweden. It is well known that Swedish-American bilateral security cooperation across naval, ground, air, and intelligence domains is extensive.

It should be obvious that Russia is under no illusions of Swedish neutrality.[38] Swedish membership in NATO would simply confirm and publicize the underlying policies and principles guiding Swedish security. Inevitably, Russia would take certain actions to publicly criticize a Swedish entry into the alliance, such as diplomatic protests or increased deployments of troops to the Baltic region.[39] But these actions would be primarily symbolic.

Drawing upon the historical relations between Russia and Sweden, maintaining neutrality will not necessarily force Russia to refrain from aggressive measures. Sweden consistently faced Soviet incursions throughout the 1980s, despite nominal and factual military non-alignment and political neutrality. No particular Cold War incident illustrates this more clearly than the inadvertent stranding of a Soviet Whiskey-class nuclear submarine on an islet near Sweden’s naval headquarters in Karlskrona in 1981, playfully termed “Whiskey on the Rocks.” Several serious aerial intrusions also took place throughout the Cold War.

Some argue that the major risk in NATO membership is not the impact on Sweden-Russia relations, but the risk of military obligations outside Sweden’s national interest. Common self-defense is reciprocal, and any NATO country that is attacked is entitled to all other member states’ assistance. As a member, Sweden would have to aid any other member. However, that is nearly the case already. The Lisbon Treaty requires Sweden to help all European Union members of NATO, and the Solidarity Proclamation includes Iceland and Norway in the area affected by hypothetical Swedish solidarity. The only NATO members not covered by current Swedish obligations are Canada, the United States, and Turkey. If those nations were attacked, NATO membership would make a difference, and Sweden would be obliged to provide assistance. However, so would every other ally, and the Swedish contribution would be in proportion to the country’s size. Given the benefits of membership, this is a small price to pay.

Opponents also argue that NATO membership would demand Swedish participation in NATO operations around the world, citing Libya, the Balkans, and Afghanistan as examples. This argument lacks strength for two primary reasons. First, Sweden already contributes more to NATO operations than many NATO members. In Afghanistan, Swedish troops continued their contribution to the ISAF mission long after forces from NATO countries like Spain had left. Critically, NATO allies are only compelled to come to the aid of another ally when the threat is directed against its territory—not to join in every overseas military operation. In the view of many NATO members, the United States’ operation in Iraq was not an act of common self-defense, which is why key NATO members such as France and Germany did not commit troops to the operation.

Interoperability and Practical Cooperation

Looking at northern Europe in 2014, it is clear that Sweden will not and cannot remain outside a potential conflict in the region.[40] Sweden will be an actor, regardless of NATO membership. Geographically, it is difficult to envision a conflict in the Baltic area that would not include Sweden’s airspace, its waters, or its territory.[41] The long coastline and the large island of Gotland give Sweden a central, strategic position. Gotland’s location renders it instrumental to the conduct of any armed conflict in the Baltic Sea, because the island is large enough to deploy armed units and would provide ample support to any ambitions of maintaining air superiority. Many refer to Gotland as an unsinkable aircraft carrier. For better or worse, Sweden is enmeshed in the regional security web, irrespective of its choice to remain outside NATO.

In this context, it becomes clear that any warring party will attempt to use—or preclude its adversary’s use of—Gotland if Swedish defense on site is insufficient. From NATO’s standpoint, the island is essential for the protection of the Baltic countries; if Swedish defenses prove inadequate, NATO would have to deploy forces to the island.[42] Such a scenario would highlight the difference between the defense of a member state’s entire territory and the defense of a limited area of operational importance. The simultaneous absurdity and seriousness of such a scenario explains the need for extensive coordination and joint planning between Sweden and the recipients of its unilateral Solidarity Declaration.

Yet, Sweden’s non-membership in NATO renders elusive serious planning for joint action in the Baltic region and limits the credibility and power of the Solidarity Proclamation.[43] This represents a serious inconsistency within Swedish security policy.[44] Sweden implies an interest in constructing cooperative security, but its military is barred from conducting joint planning with anyone. Like any other military capability, credibility comes only when the world believes Sweden is able to provide and receive military aid; until that is practiced regularly and successfully, talk of such assistance is worth little.

The way forward is to fully integrate within the system with which Sweden already works, and which “remains the bedrock of Swedish security.”[45] As a member of NATO, Sweden would be able to properly plan its own actions and to access the contingency plans of the other states. Membership would increase the beneficial effects for recipients of assistance. Rather than risking provision of unnecessary or untimely aid, prior coordination—gauging of needs, strengths, and weaknesses, and removal of administrative hindrances—would increase the effectiveness of any assistance Sweden has pledged.

Membership would also assure the country that its territory and airspace would not merely be instrumental to NATO, but essential to protect. Bearing in mind Sweden’s emphasis on joint training and thorough preparation ahead of international expeditionary campaigns, and its priority of NATO interoperability,[46] it is striking that the Swedish government denies itself such opportunities in its immediate proximity.

Although located in a technologically, militarily, and economically advanced region of the world, Sweden faces particular intelligence challenges and relies on foreign sources for military intelligence. Despite the active and vast intelligence exchange between NATO countries and Sweden on other issues, themes of high resonance to Sweden’s defense remain at the discretion of other parties. This dependency results in crucial intelligence being served to Sweden in accordance with other countries’ interests, and as far as any given country deems it useful. Likewise, Sweden shares its intelligence, most importantly signals intelligence, with regards only to its own utility and to what it might transact in return–lacking sufficient attention to joint NATO defense planning in the region. Suboptimal intelligence sharing creates duplication in effort and increases the likelihood of overlooking crucial information. Formal NATO membership will directly address this salient issue. Playing an integral role in NATO’s defense of the Baltic States would enable Sweden to access and contribute intelligence of mutual importance to regional security. It would eliminate the risk of countries unwittingly planning against the interests of their neighbors, and it would message to Russia that the European bloc is capable of acting in concert.


Sweden’s security policy has undergone a variety of fundamental changes since the end of the Cold War, and its current incarnation presents several significant challenges, doctrinal inconsistencies, and divergent security and defense strategies. Sweden has forsaken the traditional neutrality policy, joined the European Union, and closely aligned itself with NATO’s Partnership for Peace. Consecutive Swedish governments have recognized that Sweden builds security with others, and that cooperation is essential to Swedish security. Yet, Sweden today lacks a credible territorial defense, and drastic reforms are required. NATO membership will provide the most cost-effective and credible solution to this issue and cement Sweden’s role in the Baltic region’s security web. Joining NATO would mean that Sweden’s ability to protect its territory would no longer be questioned.

By joining NATO, Sweden’s security policy will achieve a more beneficial balance of obligations and securities, contributing to wider European security in the process. Sweden, its territory, assets, and airspace will be part of NATO’s contingency planning regardless of its membership, and thus it is in Sweden’s interest to participate fully and exert influence over the process. The benefits of interoperability, particularly in the realm of intelligence sharing, will provide Sweden and NATO members with a better understanding of regional developments. As Sweden navigates the security landscape of this new century, it can no longer rely on policies of neutrality and achieve its goals. NATO membership is the way forward. NATO – ja tack!

About the Author

Anders Fridén is a master's student at Yale University's Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. He received his BA in history and Persian from the University of Oxford. He has served within the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs since 2011, with three postings at Swedish embassies around the world. After Afghanistan's 2014 presidential elections, he acted as a European Union election observer based in Kabul. He writes in an independent capacity.

[1] In recognition of their support of this article, a special mention is due to Amanda Dahlstrand Rudin for her help, and to Björn Fridén, Eric Salmgren von Schantz, Knut Eiliv Lein, Erik Hammar and Björn Lindgren.

[2] Gyldén, Nils, Sweden’s Security and Defence Policy, 1993.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Although Sweden was never occupied by another country, and remained nominally neutral, it did not consistently adhere to its neutral ideals. For example, German troops were allowed free passage across the country and exports of strategic materials, primarily steel, continued into the war. Similarily, Sweden cooperated with the Allies by providing intelligence, and turned a blind eye and happily granted leave to Swedish officers wishing to partake in the Finnish Winter War of 1940-1941.

[5] Nilsson, Mikael, “Amber Nine: NATO’s Secret Use of a Flight Path over Sweden and the incorporation of Sweden in NATO’s Infrastructure,” Journal of Contemporary History, Issue 2, 2009.
For a more extensive exposé of Swedish neutrality, see
Sverker Åström, Svensk neutralitetspolitik, 1983.

[6] Winnerstig, Mike, “From Neutrality to Solidarity? Sweden’s Ongoing Geopolitical Reorientation,” Advancing US-Nordic-Baltic Security Cooperation.

[7] Stern, Maria, Security Policy in Transition – Sweden after the Cold War, 1991.

[8] Steen-Johnsson, Cecilia, Ett folkbedrägeri – DC 3:an och svensk säkerhetspolitik.

[9] The issue of Swedish neutrality is a hotly debated topic, and some, such as Mikael Nilsson, make a convincing case (in English) by pointing at tacit Swedish approval of NATO hegemony and explicit approval of NATO’s use of Swedish air space as signs of cooperation.
Nilsson, Mikael, “Amber Nine: NATO’s Secret Use of a Flight Path over Sweden and the incorporation of Sweden in NATO’s Infrastructure,” Journal of Contemporary History, Issue 2, 2009

[10] Stern, Maria, Security Policy in Transition – Sweden after the Cold War, 1991.

[11] Sloan, Stanley R., NATO Enlargement and the Former European Neutrals, 1998.

[12] Partnership for Peace is a NATO-led initiative to build trust between NATO members, former Soviet states, and European neutral states. Under its auspices, the partnering countries partake in exercises with NATO. For many countries in Eastern Europe, it has acted as a stepping stone into formal NATO membership.
“Sverige och Partnerskap för fred.” Regeringens propostion 1993/94:207

[13] Raeder, Johan, “Thinking of the Future of NATO Partnerships.” Advancing US-Nordic-Baltic Security Cooperation.

[14] Brattberg, Erik, “U.S.-Nordic Global Security Cooperation,” Advancing US-Nordic-Baltic Security Cooperation.

[15] Dahl, Ann-Sofie, “Sweden, Finland and NATO: Security partners and security producers,” Nordic-Baltic Security in the 21st Century: The Regional Agenda and the Global Role.

[16] Larsson, Torbjörn, NBG – Nordic Battle Group. Available at

[17] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/27/finland-sweden-strengthen-ties-nato

[18] http://www.regeringen.se/sb/d/18638

[19] The Solidarity Proclamation was announced by the Government, and subsequently ratified unanimously by the Parliament’s Defense committee (Försvarsutskottet).
Winnerstig, Mike, “From Neutrality to Solidarity? Sweden’s Ongoing Geopolitical Reorientation.” Advancing US-Nordic-Baltic Security Cooperation; and
”Ett användbart försvar,” Regeringens proposition 2008/09:140.

[20] Dahl.

[21] Among the Nordic countries, all are EU members except Norway and Iceland, which are both NATO members.

[22] Bildt, Carl, “Nordiskt utrikes-, säkerhets-, och försvarspolitiskt samarbete inclusive krisberedskap.” Skrivelse 2012/13:112

[23] Speech by Tolgfors, Sten, “Den Svenska Solidaritetsförklaringen”, given 17/1/2010. Available at http://www.regeringen.se/sb/d/9497/a/138094 (in Swedish).

[24] The Solidarity Proclamation can also be viewed as a return to the historical Swedish grand strategy of Gustavus Adolphus, who argued that the enemy must be denied a foothold in the Baltic, and that it is better to fight to prevent the conflict from reaching the region, than to face it first when it has arrived.
Neretnieks, Karlis, “Sweden and Stability in the Baltic Region.” Nordic-Baltic Security in the 21st Century: The Regional Agenda and the Global Role.

[25] Danmarks Radio, “Danske kampfly indsat mod russiske fly.” 07/11/2011. Available at

[26] Thurfjell, Karin & Augustsson, Tomas, “Ryska bombplan flog over Östersjön.” Svenska Dagbladet, 07/12/2014

[27] Groll, Elias, “Swedes Find Definitive Evidence of Submarine, Russians Call Them Unmanly,” Foreign Policy, 15/11/2014. Available at

[28] “Bekräftad ubåt i Stockholms skärgård”, Försvarsmakten, 14/11/2014. Available at

[29] Bertelman, Tomas, Försvarspolitiskt samarbete – effektivitet, solidaritet, suveränitet. Hereinafter referred to as “Bertelman Report.”

[30] Former Prime Minister Göran Persson famously said, on the topic of balancing the state budget, “one can always take the last billion from defense.” During his tenure as Prime Minister between 1996-2006, Sweden disbanded dozens of regiments, and in practice ended large-scale drafting and invasionsförsvar.

[31] Neretnieks, Karlis, “Sweden and Stability in the Baltic Region,” Nordic-Baltic Security in the 21st Century: The Regional Agenda and the Global Role, 2011.

[32] Please see Andrén’s report for an in-depth discussion about the modern relevance of threshold abilities in Swedish defense.
Andrén, Krister, Krigsavhållande tröskelförmåga – Det svenska försvarets glömda huvuduppgift? 2014.

[33]As noted, Norway is a member of NATO but not the European Union.

[34] Bertelman Report.

[35] This argument is the centerpiece in a collection of texts published in late 2014. Written by senior Swedish diplomats, politicians and academics, “Bevara alliansfriheten – Nej till Nato-medlemskap!” can be viewed as a sign of increased public engagement with the issue of membership.
Björnsson, Anders & Hirdman, Sven (editors), Bevara Alliansfriheten – Nej till Nato-medlemskap, 2014.

[36] Hansson, Wolfgang, “’Krim har alltid tillhört Ryssland’”, Aftonbladet, 20/07/2014

[37] “Strategiska förändringsmål.” Försvarsmakten, 29/08/2014. Available at

[38] Winnerstig, Mike, “From Neutrality to Solidarity? Sweden’s Ongoing Geopolitical Reorientation.” Advancing US-Nordic-Baltic Security Cooperation.

[39] Michel, Leo G., “Finland, Sweden and NATO: From ’Virtual’ to Formal Allies?” Strategic Forum, February 2011.

[40] Dahl, Ann-Sofie, “Sweden: Once a Moral Superpower, Always a Moral Superpower?” International Journal, autumn 2006.

[41] Bertelman Report.

[42] Neretnieks, Karlis, “Sweden and Stability in the Baltic Region.” Nordic-Baltic Security in the 21st Century: The Regional Agenda and the Global Role.

[43] Bertelman Report.

[44] Ibid.

[45] Andrén, 11.

[46] Petersson, Magnus, “NATO and the Neutrals.” NATO: The Power of Partnerships.


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