Strategic Implications of Sweden’s and Finland’s Drive to Join NATO

If Sweden and Finland decide to join NATO and give up their policy of non alignment, it would dramatically transform the Baltic Sea region, where tensions were low even during the Cold War, into a zone of high tension. For most to two centuries, it has been a common understanding among the coastal nations, that the Baltic Sea should remain outside any major power conflicts. That would come to an end if, as part of NATO expansion, American, British and other European military forces are invited into this theatre to enforce land, air and sea control of the Baltic Sea area.

Finland is very, very close to St. Petersburg and other major Russian cities. Its border is also only 180 km from the Murmansk city on the Kola peninsula, which hosts the major bases for the Russian Navy’s strategic nuclear submarine force. These submarines are continuously patrolling under the Arctic ice cap, hidden in order to be able to deliver a second strike. NATO access to this territory of northern Finland and/or Sweden would threaten these bases and endanger the major part of the Russian second strike capability, thereby upsetting the entire global nuclear balance. Thus, a huge strategic crisis in Northern Europe is looming, like a Cuban missile crisis in reverse.

Already now in peacetime, since 2015, Sweden, as a NATO partner, has allowed the strategic B-52 bombers to fly over Sweden towards the Russian border. These flights are not secret but unknown to most Swedes, although they are huge nuclear weapons provocations against Russia.

This week, both the Finnish and Swedish social democrat party leaderships are supposed to take a decision on the issue. On May 17-18, Finland’s president Sauli Niinistö will go to Sweden, possibly announcing a common decision of the two nations to apply for NATO membership.

In Sweden, the domestic opposition to the Swedish government’s drive is mainly due to the population’s shock over the blatant methods used to ram through a decision, overriding the democratic processes for the nation, as well as internally in the party. On April 28, Left Party leader Nooshi Dadgostar called on for a mobilization against NATO membership and demanded a national referendum take place in  Autumn. The Left Party’s May 1 demonstrations became a huge rallying point against joining the alliance, with a record 25.000 participants in Stockholm. On May 7, the Environment Party came out against membership.

What will be decisive are the internal factions in the Social Democratic party. Leading social democrat Pierre Schori together with Henrik Fritzon, the head of the party in the important Skåne region, published an oped on May 1 in the party newspaper Aftonbladet calling for the party members to “Say No to Nato”. The party’s women’s organization and youth organization SSU have both opposed NATO membership.

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