Sweden is poised to enhance Nato’s Northern Defences

Sweden is poised to join Nato, after Turkey dropped their objections. This marks a historical turning point for the Scandinavian nation that has cherished its non-aligned military status for over two centuries.

In 2013, the Russian air force simulated a nuclear attack near Stockholm. The Swedes were made aware of Moscow’s increasing aggressiveness. It took the Russian assault on Ukraine last year for Sweden to abandon its neutrality.

Carl Bildt said that the former Swedish Prime Minister, “it’s a historic change for Sweden.”

Camille Grand (a former Nato Assistant Secretary-General) said that Sweden’s accession to Nato would enhance regional security and deterrence of Russian aggression. It will also bring advanced military capability to the alliance.

Grand stated that it was one of the biggest transformations in the European security landscape after the Cold War. It’s really interesting to see how [Vladimir] Putin achieved this.

The Russian president has complained for years about Nato’s enlargement. He described it as a threat to his security and justified his invasion of Ukraine in part as a defensive action against the alliance he wants to drag into war.

After his invasion in 2022, Finland and Sweden, both neutral and non-aligned countries applied to join this military alliance. Ukraine also did.

While Finland joined in April of this year, Sweden was met with a wall from Recep Tayyip Erdoan, the Turkish president, for what he said was Sweden’s lax approach to supporters of terrorist and extremist groups, such as the banned Kurdistan Workers’ party.

The Swedish government will be able to move forward with its plans after an agreement was reached between the Turkish prime minister and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson in Vilnius, just before the Nato summit. The deal, which was signed by Nato as well, makes it more difficult for Ankara. Kristersson said that it was “a big step”.

As an EU-member, Sweden already had a promise of assistance in the event of an attack, and was granted interim security guarantees by the US, UK, and other powers last year, pending its Nato Membership. Once Sweden joins Nato, it will be fully protected by the alliance under Article 5 of its collective defence clause.

Gunilla Herlf, Senior Associate Research Fellow at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs said: “It is a great relief.” “We feel safer.” The Swedish membership in Nato will strengthen its defence of the entire Nordic region and Baltic and its presence in Arctic. Nato can now fully integrate its forces, logistics and airspace, as well as maritime areas.

Bildt said that coordinating efforts, plans and commands would make it much easier to defend a particular area. “You can achieve a much greater deterrence by combining efforts.”

All of its Nordic neighbors, especially Finland, which has close military relations with Sweden, can benefit from the “strategic deep” that Swedish territory provides, i.e., room to store supplies and reinforce.

Grand, who is now the European Council on Foreign Relations’ Director, stated that the Sweden’s entry would be most valuable for the defense of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

“It closes the Baltic Sea to NATO as a lake. The Balts were feeling like an island. “Now [their defence] will be much easier due to military integration.”

Sweden will bring with it some very important capabilities. Its army may be small but its navy is highly skilled, especially its submarine fleet. It is equipped with Gripen fourth-generation fighters, and has state-of-the art air defences.

The military of the neighbouring country is used to collaborating with each other. Last year, the four Nordic countries agreed to pool their combined air force, which is roughly equivalent to the Royal Air Force of the UK.

Sweden’s defense companies are producing advanced equipment for Ukraine, such as artillery, anti-tank and air defence weapons.

Grand said, “They will not be allies that are free riders.” They are bringing capabilities.

Bildt said that Sweden and its neighbors would need to make “big strides forward”, including the integration of their air defense systems and logistics supply chains.

Anna Wieslander is the director of northern Europe for the Atlantic Council. She said that Sweden’s top leaders and decision-makers would have to adopt a “strategic mindset”. It is a non-aligned nation, but it has the option to be neutral and wait.

She said that the shift from national defense planning to a collective defence planning process was a significant one, both mentally and practically.

“There will be expectations that Sweden will become an active member in Nato, but this will be a big challenge.”