Sweden and NATO

So Sweden is joining NATO at last, after decades of studied refusal, and centuries of principled and proud neutrality; which makes the decision of her governing Social Democratic Party, to be confirmed by Parliament today (I think), a truly ‘historic’ one. I was never entirely happy with her traditional policy, believing that the effective maintenance of peace depends on mutual alliances, and knowing how imperfect and one-sided Sweden’s neutrality had been in World War II. But I respected it in principle, and because in any war situation it is valuable to have one or two neutral countries for refugees (in that case Jews) to flee to, and where diplomatists from both sides could meet. So I was never as critical as might have been expected from someone born in the middle of the great London Blitzkrieg (just a few miles from baby me in Hornchurch), when Britain could have done with all the help she could find in order to prevent Nazism from overrunning Europe; including – presumably – Sweden.

The change of mind in Sweden has been rapid, and huge. And of course it has been the Russian invasion of Ukraine that has brought it on. Sweden, remember, is very near to Russia, and Finland even closer, sharing an 800 km border with her. Both countries have been in direct confrontation with Russia in the past. In very recent years Russian military airplanes have been spotted violating Swedish and Finnish airspace, and Russian subs hiding in the Stockholm Archipelago (where Kajsa and I have our sommarhus). Military personnel and equipment are being shipped over to Gotland, the island between Sweden and the ex-Soviet and so under-threat Baltic States. People are being advised to stock up their cellars in preparation for an attack, and Kajsa has bought a wind-up radio in case the electricity fails. No-one really believes war will come, I think; but these preparations may explain why opinion here has turned towards NATO in recent weeks. Putin will take it as evidence that NATO has designs on Russia; but from Svartsö (our island) the main threat appears the other way.

Of course Putin’s paranoia has some basis to it, in the indications that NATO has given that it would like to expand further into Russia’s traditional ‘sphere of influence’, in ways that could be interpreted as aggressive and, indeed, ‘imperialistic’. One of the great problems with NATO is that it is so dependent on, and thus dominated by, the USA, whose grossly ‘imperialistic’ instincts in the recent past are plain for all to see.

Which may open up an opportunity for Sweden and Finland, when they do eventually become members of NATO, to pull the organisation back from the USA, and to re-establish it as the unambiguously defensive alliance it was originally intended to be. Indeed, that seems to me to be an ideal rôle for Sweden to take on, in view of her 200 years of neutrality and pacifism. It might be easier for her to do this from inside NATO, than from without. That is, if Putin – in ‘retaliation’ – doesn’t bomb Svartsö first.

About bernardporter2013

Retired academic, author, historian.
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