Sweden believes that joining NATO would reduce the risk of conflict in Northern Europe | International

Sweden’s entry into NATO would have “a deterrent effect in northern Europe,” according to a report agreed by the country’s Social Democratic government and by six of the eight parliamentary forces —except environmentalists and former communists—. The text, which analyzes the new security situation generated after Russia’s attack on Ukraine, summarizes that, if “Sweden and Finland become members of the Atlantic Alliance, all the Nordic and Baltic countries will be protected with defense guarantees collective”. Meanwhile, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has shown this Friday his disagreement with the entry into NATO of the two Nordic countries. Turkey, a member of the Atlantic Alliance since 1952, is the first partner to have publicly stated its opposition. The accession of new countries requires the unanimity of all members of the organization.

According to the Swedish document, “Russia’s large-scale aggression against Ukraine has a nature and scope that Europe has not experienced since World War II.” And, although Sweden already cooperates on defense and security with its “strategic partners”, there are currently no “binding defense obligations”. In other words, “there is no guarantee that Sweden will receive aid if it is the target of a serious threat or attack”, since the collective defense clause (article 5 of the founding text of the Alliance) only protects the member countries, underlines the document, presented this Friday by the Swedish Foreign and Defense Ministers, Ann Linde and Peter Hultqvist.

The report highlights that there is not much room to strengthen bilateral cooperation with NATO or within Europe because “it is clear that there is a lack of political will to create a collective defense in the European Union.” In addition, remaining outside NATO would force the country to face defense spending of more than 2% of gross domestic product (GDP), the minimum agreed upon by the members of the military organization at the Wales summit in 2014, although most the allies have not yet reached that goal.

The Scandinavian country currently spends around 1.3% of its GDP on defense items. Hans Wallmark, spokesman for foreign policy of the Moderate Party (conservatives), the main formation of the opposition and in favor of joining NATO for almost two decades, told EL PAÍS by telephone that almost all the parliamentary groups have already reached the conclusion that it is necessary to increase military spending to 2% of GDP as soon as possible. “It would mean an investment of between 11,000 and 12,000 million euros per year,” explains Wallmark.

“The main consequence of a future entry into NATO would be that Sweden would be part of its collective security,” Minister Linde said at a press conference, expressing concern about the situation of vulnerability in which the country could find itself during the transition period until final integration into NATO. During this time, according to Linde, Sweden could be subject to cyberattacks or provocations such as violations of its airspace.

The conservative Wallmark considers that in the months that the ratification is prolonged (a process that requires the approval in Parliament of the 30 members of the military bloc), the Scandinavian country “must carry out constant military maneuvers in which some of the allies participate to show their clear support for accession”. Land and naval trials (Baltops 2022) are planned for early June in which the Swedish Armed Forces will participate together with soldiers from twenty NATO members.

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The presentation of the report comes a day after the president of Finland, Sauli Niinistö, and the prime minister of the Nordic country, Sanna Marin, issued a joint statement in which they urged to request admission to the Atlantic Alliance.

The Swedish Social Democratic Party, which alone heads a minority government, has called an extraordinary meeting of its leadership for Sunday after which they will make public their position on joining the Alliance. This week, the formation – winner in all the general elections in the Scandinavian country since 1914 – has held three days of virtual meetings to decide whether to break with its traditional position against integration into the military bloc. The Social Democrats are expected to finally position themselves in favor of accession. Next Monday, the Swedish Parliament will host a special debate on the new security report, which Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson will attend. After the act, some Swedish media point out that an extraordinary meeting of the Government could be held to announce the sending of a formal application for admission. The Finnish president will pay an official visit to Stockholm next Tuesday and Wednesday.

Turkey’s opposition

“We are following the situation regarding Sweden and Finland, but we do not see it positively,” Erdogan told the media in Istanbul at the end of Friday’s prayer on the approach of the Nordic countries to the Alliance.

The Islamist president justified his opposition in that these countries “have become a host for terrorists”, in particular armed organizations such as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) or the People’s Liberation Revolutionary Party-Front (DHKP-C). ). Traditionally, the Scandinavian countries have been a refuge for numerous activists and politicians from Turkey — pro-Kurdish, leftist or Islamist — fleeing repression in their country, both those who opted for peaceful paths and those more or less close to these armed groups. proscribed by the antiterrorist legislation of the European Union and that still carry out attacks on Turkish soil.

“The PKK, the DHKP-C have nested in Sweden, in the Netherlands [sic]. And there they grow and even take place in Parliament,” Erdogan criticized. The Turkish government has demanded the extradition of many of these exiles, either to Sweden or to other countries through which they have passed, as was the case of the Turkish-Swedish journalist Hamza Yalçin, arrested in Spain in 2017, but whose delivery to Ankara was finally rejected by the Council of Ministers.

The Turkish opposition could ruin the Finnish and Swedish candidacy for NATO since the acquiescence of all partners is required to approve new income. Until now, Turkey had been favorable to the extensions of the organization, since, especially the last ones, they have been to countries with which Ankara maintains excellent relations, such as Albania or North Macedonia. Still, Erdogan’s opposition to the Scandinavian candidacy may be a well-staged tantrum for concessions.

It already happened with the election of the Danish Anders Fogh Rasmussen as secretary of the Atlantic Alliance in 2009. Then, the Turkish government – of which Erdogan was prime minister – was furious at the position that the Danish Executive had maintained during the crisis of the cartoons of Muhammad three years earlier. Finally, Turkey supported the election of Rasmussen in exchange for him issuing an apology to the Muslim world for the cartoon crisis. But, above all, what the Erdogan government achieved in return was the closure of the Roj TV television station, accused of propagandizing the PKK and which broadcast from Denmark, and appointing Turkish soldiers to two senior positions in the new leadership of the NATO.

In Washington, Karen Donfried, undersecretary of the Department of State for European Affairs, has indicated in a call with journalists this Friday that the US government is working to clarify Turkey’s position. After pointing out that he is not aware that Turkey is going to oppose the entry of Finland and Sweden into NATO, he added that during the meeting of foreign ministers this weekend in Berlin, which will be attended by the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken , the United States will talk with Turkey and other countries to clarify that position, reports Miguel Jimenez.

Donfried has made it clear that Washington’s position with respect to NATO is one of “open doors” and that it will support the entry of Finland and Sweden if they formalize their application for membership.

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