NATO: Sweden Navigates Dangerous Waters

It is not just the politicians in the Riksdag who must decide what risks there are in NATO membership, writes Marcello Ferrada de Noli.

Ann Linde, Sweden’s foreign minister, on right during a NATO meeting with Sweden and Finland on April 6. Finland’s Foreign Affairs Minister Pekka Haavisto on left. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in center. (NATO)

By Marcello Ferrada de Noli
in Stockholm

Special to Consortium News

There is a fundamental paradox within NATO between rights and responsibilities that has often been misinterpreted. From NATO’s perspective, the priority of a country’s accession to the alliance is not the right of that country to have the alliance’s protection, but on the contrary: the decisive imperative is the responsibility that NATO takes on itself to go to war when one of its member states is attacked. That and nothing else is at the heart of Article 5.

In other words, it is not the Swedish members of parliament who now want to vote for NATO membership who should ultimately decide when Sweden will go to war and against whom. It will be NATO. If another NATO member state other than Sweden is attack, Sweden would be obliged to go to war.

Nevertheless, in the context of several wars in which NATO members have been involved in recent decades, there are also exceptions to the principle of solidarity and mutual assistance.

It happened, for example, when a Russian bomber was shot down by NATO country Turkey in November 2016. According to Swedish media it would have been a casus-belli type of incident, because, according to Turkey, it occurred over Turkish territory while Russia said the plane was in Syrian airspace.

It was reported that Ankara had asked its NATO allies “to invoke Article 5 to help secure Turkey’s border with threats from Syria.” Still, the final decision was, “NATO stands with Turkey but does not invoke Article 5.”

What reliable guarantee from NATO would there be if a similar incident were to occur from the Swedish side, and which would be perceived by Russia as provocative, or worse, as casus belli?

Furthermore, it must be remembered that Swedish membership in NATO would place Sweden only about 300 km from Kaliningrad. The “standard” kaliber missiles Russia recently deployed in Kaliningrad have a range of over six times that distance.

In addition to Sweden’s new anti-missile capability, NATO membership could also mean nuclear weapons being placed on Swedish territory.  Russia possesses the world’s largest arsenal of nuclear warheads, along with the most destructive ones.

Moscow’s modern hypersonic missile, according to President Joe Biden, is currently “almost impossible to stop.” It is said that Russia’s new RS-28 “Sarmat” — a missile equipped with 10 to 15 MIRVs — can reach Berlin in about 106 seconds, London 202 seconds and Stockholm in 87 seconds.

The Riksdag building. (Christian Gidlof, Wikimedia Commons)

The general starting point in Swedish media is that the only enemy is Russia and the only risk is war with Russia. But Albin Aronsson, security policy analysts at the Swedish Defence Research Agency, tells the Swedish newspaper DN that “the risk of an actual (Russian) military threat is low at the moment.”

Furthermore, for the United States, NATO’s real engine, Russia is by no means the only potential warring nation. For Washington, other countries such as China, or India — and others in Asia, Africa and Latin America that currently support Russia, or refuse to participate in sanctions against Moscow — together constitute a greater economic and military power than NATO.

Should the United States end up in further military confrontations with any, or a group of those countries, would NATO-member Sweden have any opportunity to avoid participating in, or to be the target of, those hyper destructive weapons that unfortunately modern warfare shall bring about?

Of course, Sweden, must safeguard its national integrity, territorially, politically and culturally. But Sweden is made up of family and every single Swede among over 10 million Swedes. It is everyone’s destiny. It is not only the politicians in the Riksdag who must decide what risks there are in NATO membership. Especially when some of these politicians were elected thanks to the opposite platform on NATO-membership.

A Truly Neutral Country

What would benefits the world — and not just Sweden — is that Sweden once again declares its neutral status. As I wrote in DN, seven years ago:

“A closer Swedish co-operation with the USA / NATO does not lead to increased security, but risks making Sweden a primary target in the event of a military conflict. Why not invest in a neutral Sweden that would contribute to increased security not only for the country but also in the region and thereby reduce the risk of war.”

Olof Palme, then Sweden’s prime minister, at May Day rally in Stockholm, circa 1970. (Oiving, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Historically, the Swedish political culture in the time of Prime Minister Olof Palme enabled serious negotiations for peace, geopolitical conflict-solving, as well hosting agreements for international events in the global fight for human health and the environment. In view of the recent re-enactment of cold-war behavior between West and East, aggravated by new sophisticated and destructive arsenals, humankind needs such a forum more than ever before. 

For the above reasons, a referendum on the NATO issue, just as it was in the case of Sweden´s EU-membership, must take place. At the same time, the authorities must allow, and encourage, a debate about these matters within Swedish institutions, at work sites, among students, immigrants, academics and all spheres within society.

The most important thing among human rights is the right to live. The most terrible of political actions is to seek the path of lethal confrontation. The most sublime thing is to seek peace. And the most intelligent.

Rough Waters

Some years ago, Sweden becoming “partner” of NATO, DN ran a story about me with the headline “The professor has sailed in dangerous waters.” It referred to my resistance against the fascist dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, and that I survived capture, imprisonment, and at the end came back to the friendly nest of European anti-imperialist societies exiting at the time.

The Chilean fascists were eventually ousted from power. During my first visit to Russia I was invited to the military parade in Red Square, November 1981. I was in Moscow at the time when a submarine of the Soviet fleet, because of a technical issue, went unintentionally to ashore on the Swedish coast. Although in the middle of the Cold War, the two governments could resolved incident quickly and in a non-dramatic fashion.

Would the same outcome have happened if neutral Sweden were instead a member of NATO? It’s not too late for Sweden to come back to that geopolitical stance. Better secured in its own neutral port, than navigating in waters of confrontation.

Professor Marcello Ferrada de Noli is founder of Swedish Doctors for Human Rights and chief-editor of the geopolitical magazine The Indicter.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

15 comments for “NATO: Sweden Navigates Dangerous Waters

  1. delia ruhe
    May 4, 2022 at 06:12

    It is just beyond me to understand why a prosperous, successful, well-governed, stable state like Sweden would even think of turning its sovereignty and its independence over to NATO. Do they not realize that NATO countries are under the command of the US? Washington is currently using NATO as a cover to legitimize its expansionism in pursuit of global hegemony–and the NATO countries and other European nations are paying a heavy price for accepting that role, especially as they are under serious pressure to place an embargo on Russian fossil fuels. They are apparently caving in to that pressure and as a consequence running the risk of freezing in the dark come late fall and winter.

    Foolish, foolish, foolish Sweden.

  2. Dr. Hujjathullah M.H.B. Sahib
    May 3, 2022 at 08:35

    Only a true friend of a successful and peaceful Europe like Prof Marcello can advocate for and offer such a sane advice for not just Sweden but also for Western Europe generally. The USA, the linchpin of NATO, itself is internally polarized on expansion of NATO and even existing NATO-members themselves like Turkey are increasingly disillusioned with unqualified attachment with NATO and its MIC-driven agenda. Sweden should adhere to strict neutrality in the best interest of its peoples, the American reluctance to put boots on the ground on behalf of Ukraine should be enough of an eye opener for all sane Swedes; just forget their well-greased MPs !

  3. Florentino
    May 3, 2022 at 05:43

    . . . La colonización de Europa por parte “Atlántica”, se fue realizando con “dictaduras” como la portuguesa (Salazar), España por una decisión obligada, pero comprada al mismísimo P$0E. Felipe González, de decir: OTAN, ¡NO! se convirtió en un ¡SÍ! . . . ¡Después de caer asesinado Olof Palme con balas americanas! Las políticas del estado español ¡Nunca son autónomas! la ciudadanía no es consultada para ningún caso. Ahí están las pantallas antinucleares en Andalucía y las bases americanas. . .¡Sin consulta alguna!
    ¿Quién tiene bases (200) por todo el mundo, Rusia? ¿Solo son los oligarcas rusos los que oprimen la “expansión” capitalista? ¿Armar al “nazismo” es la solución de la OTAN en Europa? La neutralidad debe ser el “requisito” indispensable para estar en Europa. Asumir el artículo 5º del tratado. . .¡Será una vulneración de la constitución Sueca!
    Jean Paul Sartre dijo: “Cuando los ricos se hacen la guerra, son los pobres los que mueren”.

  4. Mikael Andersson
    May 2, 2022 at 22:08

    Thank you Marcello. Neutrality is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength. It is a sign of confidence and certainty. The countries on Russia’s western perimeter must gain that confidence and declare neutrality. It would be beyond madness for Finland and Sweden to be sucked into USA military vision for an armed, divided, and fearful Europe. After more than 200 years of successful neutrality and peace, including through 2 world wars, the Swedes would be completely insane to declare against Russia and for the USA. They must preserve their neutrality and encourage Finland to do the same. I advocate that the Baltic states leave the NATO war bloc and follow the Swedish example of neutrality. Neutrality is strength. Ask Switzerland.

    • WillD
      May 4, 2022 at 00:28

      Absolutely. Sweden needs to stand up to the bullying and threats coming from the US and its allies to join NATO and the proxy war against Russia. It would be a tragedy for the Swedes if they were to allow their government to join without having a referendum.

  5. Andrew Nichols
    May 2, 2022 at 18:07

    Will we ever know who killed Palme and set Sweden on its current path? Who benefitted from his death might be a good place to start.

    • JohnA
      May 3, 2022 at 03:26

      There was the equivalent of a NATO Gladio stay behind movement in Sweden. Ex PM Carl Bildt was proven to have leaked top secret information to the CIA. The Swedish media hysterically scream about Russia and poor Ukraine and the need to join Nato, while leaving the back door wide open for the americans to march in. Nato warships have been docked in Stockholm this week and Sweden participates in joint exercises in Nato. Palme, Anna Linde, Hammarsköld, all assassinated, in all cases the finger inerringly points to CIA involvement. As does the pathetic collaboration with the US/UK over Julian Assange, when currently Labour leader, a tory barely in disguise, told Sweden to dare not have cold feet about prosecuting/persecuting Assange.

      • evelync
        May 4, 2022 at 10:02

        You remind me, John A, of the extraordinary documentary featuring Mads Brügger and Göran Björkdahl titled “Cold Case Hammarskjöld.”(Tore Vollan / Magnolia Pictures) and their investigation into the death of Dag Hammarskjöld.

        Wikipedia describes Hammarskjöld’s final journey thus: “a fierce proponent of African autonomy and decolonization who had been on his way to settle a conflict in the Congolese province of Katanga”.

        We mourn such a decent, honest, courageous, man who believed in a just world and sacrificed so much to serve his ideals.

        Found this on wikipedia about Olof Palme:
        “He was steadfast in his non-alignment policy towards the superpowers, accompanied by support for numerous liberation movements following decolonization including, most controversially, economic and vocal support for a number of Third World governments. He was the first Western head of government to visit Cuba after its revolution, giving a speech in Santiago praising contemporary Cuban revolutionaries.

        Frequently a critic of Soviet and American foreign policy, he expressed his resistance to imperialist ambitions and authoritarian regimes”

  6. Jeff Harrison
    May 2, 2022 at 16:41

    Very reasonable assessment. We should all be disbanding our militaries as Costa Rica has. NATO is an aggressive arm of the US, it’s very own foreign legion.

  7. Vera Gottlieb
    May 2, 2022 at 16:15

    I would say that any association with NATO brings about ‘dangerous waters’.

  8. May 2, 2022 at 14:17

    This article, and the historical context that it conveys, indicates that the great majority of the people of Sweden, Finland and Norway want to remain neutral. It has served them well all of these years. It seems to be globalist forces driving this current conflict. Thank you to this writer for his insight. I hope more people understand

  9. renate
    May 2, 2022 at 13:31

    The Swedish and Finish elected officials and heads of state are real traitors of their nation to even consider such an absurd deal? Maybe they have a powerful military-industrial complex with a powerful lobby.

  10. renate
    May 2, 2022 at 13:21

    I can’t understand why Sweden and Finland even consider such a move. In many ways, Sweden already is a de facto NATO member. Finland has only enjoyed the advantages of being neutral. What could they possibly gain? When did Russia even threaten them?
    Only NATO would gain two wealthy countries funding more wars. Ukraine is getting only more weapons and funding which they will have to pay back. Ukraine had the choice to become neutral, but they chose NATO, so they say. Was it a good choice the Fins and Swedes would like to copy?

    • Realist
      May 3, 2022 at 18:59

      If this Russian/Ukrainian war says anything about Russian bellicosity it is that Russia is very slow to react to the most provocative of American and Nato insults and highly belligerent policies. It took eight years of Western-enabled genocide of ethnic Russians in the Donbas to finally prod Russia into confronting the American-armed and -instigated Ukrainian aggressors. And this only when the whole world knew definitively that Ukraine had over 100,000 battle-ready troops surrounding the two Donbas republics with written orders for the date to begin hostilities intercepted. It was either that Russia react immediately then in February (ready or not) or witness the Donbas be overrun and probably slaughtered by the fanatical Ukrainian Nazis. Exactly WHAT do Finland and Sweden think they are defending against by joining Nato and posing one more threat to the thoroughly surrounded Russians? This is clearly an act of aggression, meant to escalate Nato’s threat to Russia. It was ordered by Washington which only pretends that its “allies” and vassals have any free agency whatever. If you live in the town, you are drafted into Washington’s posse whether you like it or not, whether you put yourself at risk or not. If you were neutral, going by all modern history, Russia would leave you alone. If you persist in stationing missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, expect your major cities to be decimated as soon as Washington or Nato attacks Russia. You are being idiots! Just like Poland and the Baltics, but also Germany and most of Europe. Why do this? America alone has the firepower to destroy Russia ten times over. Why do YOU need to join this parade of fools? To prove what brainless lemmings you all are?

  11. Caliman
    May 2, 2022 at 12:22

    Logic and reality have no place in the western mentality cultivated by the mainstream media, even on the peripheries of the empire of lies that is the USUK.

    In other words, of course Sweden as a nation and Swedes as a people would be safer and more secure by continuing as a neutral nation rather than joining NATO. But you see: Putin bad, Putin crazy, but at the same time, apparently Putin not crazy enough to not be scared of the big bad NATO.

    Very sad to see Finns and Swedes fall for the same BS as what has contaminated the rest of western and central Europe. It is as if people have no memory or power of logical analysis any more.

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