Report on possible NATO membership gets mixed reactions

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NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (L) and Sweden's Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist hold a news conference after a Nordic defence ministers meeting in Stockholm, Sweden, November 10, 2015. (Jessica Gow/REUTERS/TT News Agency)
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (L) and Sweden’s Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist hold a news conference after a Nordic defence ministers meeting in Stockholm, Sweden, November 10, 2015. (Jessica Gow/REUTERS/TT News Agency)
A government investigation into the consequences of a Swedish NATO membership has stirred up debate about Sweden’s relations to the military alliance.

The government-commissioned report found that an arms race in the Baltic region is a likely scenario should Sweden join NATO, but that the risk of a conflict with Russia would decline.

The report, which was seen by news agency TT, has received mixed responses from politicians.

Speaking to Swedish Radio, Liberal Party leader Jan Björklund welcomed the investigation’s conclusions. He believes that with Russia’s aggressive posturing towards the Baltic region, Sweden would be safer as a member of NATO.

Sweden's Air Force "Grippen" fighters are seen as they escort a Lithuania's Air Force C-27J plane during NATO joint military exercise in Siauliai April 1, 2014. (Ints Kalnins / REUTERS)
Sweden’s Air Force “Grippen” fighters are seen as they escort a Lithuania’s Air Force C-27J plane during NATO joint military exercise in Siauliai April 1, 2014. (Ints Kalnins / REUTERS)

The report also states that it is unlikely that Russia would attack Sweden alone. Björklund agrees but says that, in a situation where Russia were to attack or threaten others in the region, Sweden, as the geographically largest country in the Baltic, would be dragged into the conflict.

“Only Sweden (being attacked) is unlikely, I agree. However, in a situation where Russia wants to attack or threaten the Baltic States, which is not at all unlikely, more countries in the region would be dragged in… Since Sweden is geographically the largest of the Baltic Sea Forces, we would very likely be drawn into a conflict. It is to prevent this that Sweden should be a NATO member,” Björklund told Swedish Radio News.

However, Stig Henriksson, the Left Party’s defense policy spokesperson, completely disagrees with Björklund’s reasoning to join NATO, telling Swedish Radio: “He says that it is unlikely that Russia would attack Sweden. That is the only scenario in which NATO and Article Five would be helpful to Sweden. However, we would risk being brought into a larger conflict with NATO membership and I do not understand how that is beneficial to Sweden’s security.”

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Canada’s defence review and the Arctic, Eye on the Arctic

Finland:  Finnish Air force to take part in joint Finnish-Swedish-US military exercises, Yle News

Norway:  Norway patrolling Russia’s military activity in Arctic with new intelligence vessel, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia:  Paratrooper exercises over Arctic Russia, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden:  National draft may be reintroduced in Sweden by 2019, Radio Sweden

United States: U.S. general says Alaska military cuts not final without Arctic plan, Alaska Public Radio Network

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