It is only a matter of time before Sweden joins NATO after the Turkish veto is lifted. But what does this actually mean for the Atlantic Alliance and Sweden itself?
The most important change is that from now on the entire Baltic Sea coastline – with the exception of the Russian coast and the special case of Kaliningrad – become NATO territory. This means that in the event of a Russian attack it is easier to organize the defense in the specific area. Through Sweden troops and equipment can be transported without delay in Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania. The island of Gotland, in south-eastern Sweden, plays an important role here.
Simon Kosut, a professor and researcher in international security at Germany’s Friedrichshafen University, points out that “this island, at the center of the Baltic Sea, is of enormous strategic importance to Sweden. From there one can monitor the entire area of the Baltic Sea.” Experts estimate that the geographical position of Sweden is essentially her best “dowry”. for joining NATO.
Worthy armed forces
However, the armed forces of Sweden also make a valuable contribution. It is of course a country with a small population, therefore the Swedish army does not have more than 38,000 soldiers, according to a recent survey of the Global Firepower Index. However “the Swedes have a modern army, and indeed it is remarkable that maintain an air force with fighter aircraft of their own making’; stresses Simon Kosut.
The country’s navy is also considered capable, as it has its own submarines and has already been tested in NATO military missions. Today defense spending in Sweden is catching up about 1.3% of the country’s GDP. The percentage is significantly higher than a few years ago, and is expected to increase further.
Change of tactics in Stockholm
After the end of the Cold War, Sweden, like many other Western countries, had decided to drastically reduce defense spending. However, they began to revise their stance with the Georgian war in 2008, and this “turn” continued after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, to be finalized with the start of the Russian attack on Ukraine.
Already today, NATO and the Swedish government are cooperating as much as possible. What would be the benefit for Stockholm, after joining NATO?The most important change would be the – even theoretical – possibility to invoke Article 5 on collective defence in the statute of the international organization. The specific provision provides that an attack on a member state of the Atlantic Alliance is treated as an attack aimed at all member states, which in this case are called upon to provide defensive assistance. “This collective defense clause is certainly a criterion crucial for Sweden”, estimates political scientist Simon Kosut.
Apart from all this, on a political level it is important for Sweden that becomes an equal member in the North Atlantic Council, the main decision-making body within the international organization, where it will also have veto power. Just as was the case with Turkey, which until today, invoking the veto, prevented Sweden from joining the Atlantic Alliance.
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