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Nordic NATO Realignment?
Nervous Swedes Eye NATO Membership

Russia’s repeated little “visits” with subs and planes might finally be enough for famously neutral Sweden. For the first time, an opinion poll has found that the majority of respondents want to join the NATO alliance. According to the Financial Times:

More Swedes are in favour of joining Nato than are against for the first time in the Nordic country’s history, according to a poll just a week after a hunt for a suspected submarine in the waters outside Stockholm.

In a new poll by Novus for TV4 conducted over the weekend, 37 per cent of Swedes said they supported joining Nato while 36 per cent were against. Five months ago a poll showed 28 per cent in favour and 56 per cent against.

Sweden’s new center-left government came into office having made anti-NATO pledges, but the conversation seems to have shifted significantly since then. Not only have the Russians been (supposedly) poking around in Swedish waters; they’ve also entered Swedish airspace. As a similar incident over Estonia makes clear, the Russians are testing how much leeway they have in the Baltic after an easy win in Ukraine—but it appears they are finally getting some pushback.

If Sweden did start to explore NATO membership, the move would have regional repercussions:

The three Baltic states, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, are particularly keen for Sweden and Finland to sign up to Nato, believing that their own security is weakened without them in the club. This is especially so for Sweden, whose island of Gotland lies in the middle of the Baltic sea and is seen as a tempting and vulnerable target should Russia wish to attack the Baltics.

Sweden and Finland have an informal understanding that they would only join Nato together. The issue of Nato membership is likely to feature heavily in Finland’s parliamentary elections due in the spring with Alex Stubb, the new prime minister, a big proponent of joining the military alliance.

Potentially, then, Russian aggression might be uniting the whole Baltic against Russia, which was not the case during the Cold War. Sweden was officially neutral during that conflict (though it often cooperated with NATO), while at times Finland was practically a ward of the Soviets.

But even if Sweden did join NATO, its military weakness would leave it vulnerable. Meanwhile, NATO’s European members are historically weak, even on paper, and even more so in the field. And above all, American posturing and retreat over the Ukraine crisis has called into question the alliance’s ability to deter Putin from further aggression in the Baltics.

It’s good to see some of the Europeans start taking this threat seriously. But Putin is bringing hard-power realities back to the fore, and should not be underestimated.

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  • John B Gorentz

    Thanks for bringing all these items to our attention. I appreciate it. I had not known that Sweden and Finland have such an informal understanding, though I can see why they would.

  • Thirdsyphon

    Russia shouldn’t be lightly dismissed; but then neither should Sweden or Finland, let alone NATO. Sweden has 20,000 full-time soldiers and 200,000 reservists. Finland has 36,000 soldiers and 350,000 reservists. The admission of those two countries into NATO would constitute an almost unprecedented diplomatic and national security debacle for Russia, and for Putin’s leadership in particular.

    • B-Sabre

      The 13 October issue of Aviation Week had an interview with MG Anders Brannstrom, the Swedish Army Chief of Staff. Good interview, and he cited an army strength of 13,000, compared to a Cold War total-mobilzation strength of 450,000. He talked about what they called the “Strategic Time Out” and how they are restructuring the army. As he put it “We have to train to defeat a sophisticated, well-equipped and well-trained enemy.” I wonder who he could be talking about….

    • Corlyss

      “Sweden has 20,000 full-time soldiers and 200,000 reservists.”
      They appear regularly in operettas.

      • Thirdsyphon

        I don’t think they’re screwing around. Here’s Alex Stubb [Finnish PM] on the topic of Russian aggression:

        Russia for us is a large, powerful neighbor with which we share a 1,300 kilometer-long (810-mile) border and against which we have waged war in the past. We know how the Kremlin speaks and acts. But I’m not anxious or afraid, because Finland is an integral part of the European Union.

        Sweden, meanwhile, is providing aid to Ukraine on the theory, as articulated by their Foreign minister, that “every carrot to Kiev is a stick to Moscow.”

        The bottom line, I think is that Russia’s neighbors are (predictably, unless you’re Vladimir Putin) banding together in the face of Russian adventurism. And if you are Vladimir Putin, the prospect of fighting Finns and Swedes across mountainous terrain in the Arctic Circle would make for a grim operetta indeed. . . especially if it opens in St. Petersburg.

        • Corlyss

          I hear ya, 3rd. I know they’re threatened, esp. the once doctrinally occupied Finland. But seriously, when was the last time the Swedes made a significant military impact? I thought for half a sec that they had appeared in the Siege of Vienna relief, but that turned out to be the valiant Poles under Jan Sobieski.

          • Thirdsyphon

            Sweden didn’t exactly alter the course of the Cold War, but they repeatedly demonstrated a willingness (bordering on outright eagerness) to attack Russian submarines caught in their territorial waters. They were never particularly talented at actually sinking them, but their failure wasn’t due to lack of trying.


          • Josephbleau

            If you can’t catch a sub in the skagarrat you have a problem. perhaps they should get some guys from the beach at SD or NORF to train them.

          • Tom

            Either the Great Northern War, 1700-1721–took on Denmark, Saxony, Poland, and Russia–or the Napoleonic Wars, where they contributed about a corps’ worth of troops to the 1813 campaign against Napoleon.

  • Corlyss

    The frou-frou cowards run for cover.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    I think the NATO countries have been getting a free ride on their defense commitments because the US will protect them, and so they plunder their defense budgets to pay for their welfare states. The US should withdraw from NATO, and only have defense treaties with those European countries willing to pull their own weight. Most Europeans militaries are hollow forces without the men, material, and especially ammo to fight any kind of war that lasted more than a few days.

    • f1b0nacc1

      While I agree with you in theory, the policy that you suggest would leave the US without any formal agreements with any European countries. Aside from a few Asian nations at this point (and not damn many of them), I don’t see that we would have ANY formal agreements.

      • Ulysses Noman

        You say that like it’s a bad thing.

        “Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none.”
        -Thomas Jefferson

        Feckless allies that can’t project power beyond a single regiment with borrowed heavy equipment. Or without having to rehab a Falklands War-era helicopter. We need allies that can carry their own weight. Or who actually honor the nature of an alliance. Turkey put the Byz in Byzantine when they masterfully screwed the USA on the eve of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. They’ve repeatedly betrayed the essence of NATO membership since. Britain would lose the next Falklands war, if Argentina weren’t even more broke, having gutted their (UK’s) Navy. Germany is likewise broke and mired in welfare spending on their imported muslim population (which coincidentally are Turks).
        NATO – much like the UN – only exists and has power because of US blood and treasure. It’s time we consider shucking or massively revamping both.

        • f1b0nacc1

          There is some truth in what you say, but I would not be quite as gleeful about it as you seem to be. Without allies, even the strongest state can be overcome from a collection of those that wish it ill, and I suspect that if exactly the sort of challenge that we might be facing soon

  • Fat_Man

    They want to join a moribund alliance. They would be far better off if they formed a new alliance of Baltic States and bolstered their military capabilities.

    • f1b0nacc1

      Bravo! Another advantage of such an alliance would be focus…they would have clearly defined missions and a distinct lack of the OOAO problem that NATO faces

    • bannedforselfcensorship

      It could be called the Hanseatic League in the name of recycling.

      • Josephbleau

        Modern Hanseatic League is precious. Swede sell to Nazi as neutral but Norway suffers occupation as belligerent. Why do we know Jesus was not born in Norway, There would be no wise men in the east.

    • dwpittelli

      Why would this alliance of Baltic states be worse off if its members were also allied with the United States and Western Europe (i.e., NATO)?

  • Cecelia O’brien

    the new PM has made statements which make it clear NATO membership is NOT being pursued at this time.

    • Sibir_RUS

      The principle of indivisibility of security should become an integral part of modern international law.

      • Ulysses Noman

        lol, ‘principal of indivisibility of security’ is just another way to say ‘restore the Soviet Union’. Way to try and turn back 25yrs of history, Yuri.

        • Sibir_RUS

          Russia is not going to restore the Soviet Union

  • Sibir_RUS

    Russia is a peaceful country and is not going to attack the Baltic States.
    The objects of the American missile defense system on the territory of NATO or outside, which is planned to place in violation of the ABM Treaty and the INF Treaty, will become a legitimate target on the territory of a potential enemy in case of conflict or in case of acceptance of my country solutions use pre-emptive pin-point strikes on these objects. Here, no one should be under no illusions. If the objects American so-called missile defense in Europe will pose a threat to the Russian nuclear deterrence, they will be destroyed. Everything needed to perform this task in Russia in sufficient quantity and even more. The U.S. should end the practice of building its security at the expense of the security of other States. It is not in the interests of the Baltic States. It is not in the interests of the countries that are members of NATO.

    • John Tyler

      You are totally full of crap.

      The missile program you refer to was to place a missile DEFENSE system – anti-missile-missiles on Polish soil ; it was never to place OFFENSIVE missiles.
      So why should that bother the Russians?

      Further, Russia has a very long history of invading it’s neighbors which is why the Finns, Swedes, Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians are very nervous; as is Poland, Georgia and Western Ukraine.

      And don’t forget that it was Russia, under Putin’s idol (and probably yours as well), Stalin, that signed a non-aggression pact with Hitler, that “allowed” Stalin to invade Eastern Poland, Finland and the Baltic States.

      You should ask yourself a question; after the USSR broke apart, why did those nations that comprised the USSR decide to leave “mother Russia?”
      Why didn’t they decide to VOLUNTARILY stay within the USSR? After all, no one forced them to leave. They could have decided to hang in there. But they did not.
      Why did the former Eastern Bloc nations decide to remove themselves, VOLUNTARILY, from the Russian bear? They could have stayed united under an Eastern Bloc and Russia. But they did not? Why?

      Maybe it’s because your heroes, Stalin and Lenin EXTERMINATED about 20 to 50 MILLION of the citizens of the USSR.; that is more Soviet citizens than Hitler’s Wehrmacht and SS killed

      Russia has world class scientists and very, many educated citizens, as well as vast natural resources. Russia could become a very wealthy and INFLUENTIAL economic world power by harnessing the best of the Russian people and EARNING the respect of the world.
      But no, Russia instead decides that Putin- a short, “little Stalin;” an asshole, who never misses an opportunity to flex his shirtless torso and send his military or ‘separatists” where they should not go – should be the face of Russia.

      Russia cannot get out of the way of its own 900 year old history, and it sure looks like they do not want to.

    • Thirdsyphon

      Yes. Except for waging ceaseless war against its neighbors, violating arms control treaties, encouraging rogue regimes and chaos in the developing world and threatening “pre-emptive pin-point strikes” to preserve “the Russian nuclear deterrence”. . . Russia is as peaceful as the day is long.

      • Sibir_RUS

        The peak of the U.S. occurred in the postwar years, after which the U.S. share in GDP has been steadily declining along with a huge increase of debt.

        • Thirdsyphon

          True: the U.S. share of global GDP peaked at around 50% in 1945. After several decades of decline, It’s been holding steady at around 20-25% for quite some time.

          Want to know the equivalent numbers for Russia? 10% in 1945 (for the Soviet Union) and 3.5% now.

  • higgins1991

    NATO postures, Russia postures. Quit saying that Russia is about to invade the Baltics (or anywhere else for that matter).

    • arnold

      right. like they totally didn’t invade Ukraine. or Georgia.

  • amcalabrese

    I have a better idea. How about we leave NATO. They the Europeans can refashion NATO into a European security arrangement. The Europeans can then decide to add Georgia and others if they wish.

  • InklingBooks

    It’s pleasant to see an indication that the U.S. isn’t the only major country led by an incompetent. Obama’s spineless, cater to the bullies policy may be matched in it’s stupidity by Putin’s out-of-control bullying.

    That’s of little reassurance though. Neville Chamberlain and Adolf Hitler played those same roles in the 1930s and look where that led. There is even another disturbing parallel. Around the time of Munich, the BBC cheered Chamberlain on much like the U.S. media has, until recently, cheered Obama/Hillary/Kerry’s foreign policy.

    –Michael W. Perry, editor of Chesterton on War and Peace: Battling the Ideas and Movements that Led to Nazism and World War ll.

  • Ulysses Noman

    Screw the Swedes and their socialist dhimmi model. Drop the Turks. Add the Poles.

  • M. Johnston

    Commenters who decry the longstanding faithlessness and fecklessness of (most of) our NATO “allies” are right; I once argued that NATO had outlived its usefulness ( ) and should be abandoned. Even so, it’s excellent news that the Europeans are – finally – beginning to awaken from their slumber, and I have since reconsidered the disband-NATO idea.

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