With an official policy of neutrality dating back to the end of the Napoleonic Wars, Sweden has avoided the worst of the violence that has shaped Europe over the past 200 years.
But now, with the threat of an aggressive Russia across the Baltic, Stockholm has started pursuing military partnerships with gusto.
As Russian military ships and planes line the Baltic, Sweden has signed a military cooperation deal with NATO member Poland, the European newspaper The Local reports.
“Once a sea of peace, the Baltic has become a sea of danger,” Polish Defence Minister Tomasz Siemoniak said in Warsaw on Monday alongside his Swedish counterpart, Peter Hultqvist.
In spite of Sweden’s lack of NATO membership and its policy of neutrality, Stockholm has signed a number of military pledges with both NATO and non-NATO countries in an effort to increase its own safety. In April 2015, for example, Sweden and fellow Nordic nations of Iceland, Denmark, Norway, and Finland announced plans to expand defensive ties.
The pact represented the mounting fear Nordic nations feel over the role of an increasingly aggressive Russia.
“Russia’s actions are the biggest challenge to the European security,” the defence ministers from the Nordic nations said in a joint declaration. “Russia’s propaganda and political manoeuvring are contributing to sowing discord between nations, and inside organisations like NATO and the EU.
“There is increasing military and intelligence activity in the Baltics and in our northern areas,” the declaration said. “The Russian military is challenging us along our borders and there have been several border infringements in the Baltics.”
Sweden is also a member of the EU Nordic Battlegroup, alongside Finland, Norway, Ireland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
In response to concerns over Russian military aggression, Sweden has also participated in NATO-led military exercises in Spain and in the Baltic Sea. Additionally, Stockholm has considered raising its defence budget to prepare for the possibilities of war.
The Swedish public’s attitude toward joining NATO has become increasingly positive since the start of the Ukraine crisis. A September poll showed that 41% of Swedes were in favour of joining NATO, compared to 39% against and 20% undecided. Those results come in spite of the Russian ambassador to Sweden’s warning to Stockholm that it could face “consequences” if it decided to join the military alliance.
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