Sweden wants to become a NATO member as soon as possible, in response to the behavior of Russia, which by invading Ukraine has violated the principles of the European security order. This was stated by the Swedish ambassador to Italy, Jan Bjorklund, in an interview with “Agenzia Nova”, on the day when the Stockholm government made official the decision to apply for membership of the Alliance. Moscow’s behavior is at the basis of Sweden’s choice: “when it attacked a neighboring, democratic country, Russia destroyed the European security order”, noted the ambassador, highlighting how for all the nations of the continent it was considered “It is unacceptable to move borders with violence”. “Sweden for generations has had a security policy based on neutrality,” continued Bjorklund, pointing out that Stockholm had decided not to be part of any military alliance as a way to avoid involvement in a possible war. In February, however, he saw how Ukraine, which was in the same situation as Sweden, “was not protected”. “Russia attacked them” without them being able to be defended, commented the ambassador, and for this reason “we want to join NATO”.
The process that led to the Swedish government’s decision to join the Alliance reflects “a major change in public opinion” in the Scandinavian country. “The policy of neutrality has historically had great support among citizens, but now the situation has changed and the majority want to join NATO, as well as in Finland,” explained Bjorklund. Previously there had been a public debate on the issue, “for several years, with the center-right supporting this idea” of membership, but without the support of the ruling party, the Social Democrats. However, the change of opinion of the center-left formation has changed the situation, as highlighted by the Swedish ambassador. The agreement on the historic decision to join the Alliance therefore had the positive opinion of most of the political forces, albeit with some critical voices. A referendum on NATO membership “could have taken place under normal circumstances, but with the war going on there was some urgency,” Bjorklund said, noting how “many were afraid that Russia could interfere in the debate. “, Also using propaganda on social media. “Urgency and attention to the climate of the debate influenced the decision” of the government, according to the ambassador.
On the military level, Sweden and Finland can make a great contribution to NATO thanks to their capabilities. In the event of war, Helsinki can count on a total of more than 250,000 troops, Bjorklund found, and both countries have high-level air and naval forces. “Sweden also has submarines in the Baltic Sea,” he added. However, the geographical dimension of the two Scandinavian nations also counts, according to Bjorklund. “The position of Sweden and Finland makes it possible to defend the Baltic countries, which are on the border with Russia,” he stressed. For NATO it is in fact “difficult to defend the Baltic States without using the air and sea space of Sweden and Finland”. Finally, the ambassador touched on the topic of future cooperation with Russia, in particular in the context of the Arctic Council, in which Sweden and Finland sit, in addition to the other countries of the region. “We have to distinguish between a long and short term perspective,” said Bjorklund. After the end of the war, “after Putin”, there will be “the need to resume normal relations” with Moscow, but in the short term “it will not be possible”, concluded the ambassador.