Amid tensions around Ukraine, Russia has been demanding that no new countries join NATO but it also concerns Sweden and Finland as close partners to the security alliance.
On January 6, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson commented on the security situation in Europe. “In Sweden, we determine our own foreign and security policy and decide whom we choose to cooperate with“, a press release explained.
Her comments followed discussions with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö and the United States administration about Europe security. Finland also discussed with NATO on the current tense situation.
In effect, the situation in Ukraine is at the center of security concerns, even more since Russia has been saying the country deployed 100,000 military troops at the border of the country.
To appease relations, Russia demands to abandon NATO military activities in Ukraine, Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia. But it also wants that Ukraine’s accession to the alliance as well as any further expansion are ruled out.
As a consequence, the demand also concerns Sweden and Finland.
Sweden and Finland don’t take part in any defense alliance and are not members of NATO. However, they are close partners and never quite rule out the possibility to adhere to the alliance.
In an Ipsos survey in December 2017, only 31 percent of Swedes believed that Sweden should apply for membership in NATO while 44 percent believed that Sweden should stay out of the alliance.
NATO keeps the door open for Sweden and Finland’s adhesion
But in light of security concerns, Sweden Prime Minister expressed the importance of “deepening the partnership between Sweden and NATO“. This could take the form of joint-military exercise, Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist said.
On January 10, Hultqvist said that Russia’s actions threatened the entire European security system.
A month earlier, he also explained that Sweden didn’t have immediate intentions of joining NATO but the matter was more about the country’s self-determination and autonomy in making its own decisions regarding national security.
Finnish and Swedish authorities share the same position: be independent in making their own decisions in terms of national security regardless of Russia’s demands. On the other side, NATO confirmed its position to remain its doors open for their adhesion.
But for the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, the newly nominated prime minister faces her first political security crisis. Opposition criticizes that the prime minister doesn’t shut the door on NATO membership. In a country where political majority is thin, the prime minister said she would soon invite all party leaders to talks on the matter in the near future.
On January 10, American and Russian officials started meeting in Geneva to share their concerns. But the United States will not discuss European security without their allies and partners. Russia and the NATO Council will discuss on January 12.