Sweden on the eve of joining NATO

The Gift of Stockholm for NATO
3 March 2024
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Reza Haghigi

The Gift of Stockholm for NATO

Sweden, a country that has significant capacity in military industries, including non-atomic submarines and multipurpose fighters and strategic places in the Baltic Sea, is on the eve of joining NATO. On Monday, February 26, 2024, the Hungarian Parliament voted in favor of Sweden in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), thus losing the last obstacle to Sweden's membership in NATO after nearly two years of struggle and waiting. The next step, the Hungarian resolution of legislators, goes to the presidency, and the President has five days to sign it. According to the conventional NATO protocol, it will officially announce its country to the US State Department. Sweden's membership in NATO will then be completed, and this country will join this military and security organization as the 32nd member.

Three days before the approval of Swedish membership in NATO in the Hungarian parliament, with 188 votes in favor against six votes, on Friday, February 23, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Hjalmar Kristersson met with Viktor Orban in Budapest. During the meeting, the two countries signed a military agreement, which promised Sweden to sell four GripePen multipurpose fighters, which had previously sold 14 of which to Hungary.

Sweden and Finland both submitted their request to join NATO simultaneously. Following Finland's joining NATO last year, despite the NATO member states' consent to Sweden's membership in the coalition, two countries, Turkish and Hungarian, prevented the process. Türkiye presented asylum and non-extradition of its opponents in the Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê (PKK) group by Sweden and the arms embargo of its country by Stockholm as the reason for its opposition, which was finally resolved with the negotiations of the two countries. The right-wing Hungarian government did not have a clear reason for its opposition. Budapest is mainly incompatible with the decisions of other Western countries and the European Union and always plays an out-of-tune instrument. Sweden's criticism of the unfavorable situation of democracy in Hungary was an excuse to veto the Swedish membership. Still, there was another issue behind the scenes, and that was the relative tendency of Budapest to Moscow compared to other European countries and its different positions on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Eventually, the way was paved for Sweden's accession to the coalition. In fact, Russia's attack on Ukraine ended two hundred years of military neutrality and Sweden's non-commitment. Therefore, from this point of view, Russia's recent development will be considered a failure. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in response to this development: This event will make us stronger and safer.

Swedish membership in NATO, despite being a moderate power, is a great privilege for the organization. Geopolitically, with Sweden's accession, the Baltic Sea, the passage of the Nord Stream energy lines, and the geography of important European ports, will be completely under the control of NATO, and the countries of Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany, Denmark and Sweden, as NATO members, form the unbreakable links of the security chain of the Baltic Sea. That is why the Baltic Sea is referred to as the NATO Sea, and this is a serious threat to Russian security that surrounds the sea through the Gulf of Finland and the Kaliningrad borders.

 

What is the relative advantage of Swedish military power? And how will this help NATO?

Sweden is a very important power in northern Europe with a population of 10.5 million and an area of over 450,000 km2, $ 600 billion in GDP (and $ 60,000 GDP per capita).

The Swedish fleet has 186 ships and five submarines (ArmedForces.eu) (Reuters considers the number of submarines to be four, and with the delivery of two new ultra-advanced submarines and the decommissioning of an old one, their number will reach five in the near future). Sweden's Gotland Class Submarines are one of the most advanced non-atomic (diesel) submarines that can remain underwater longer than usual and remain undetected. In a report about this on July 3, 2023, Euro News writes: Most conventional submarines work with batteries, and most of them have to return to the surface after a few days for their diesel engines to charge the batteries, but Swedish submarines have liquid oxygen in their tanks to activate underwater diesel engines to recharge the batteries, so they can stay underwater for a longer time and reduce the risk of identification. The sound removal technology for non -identification in Swedish submarines is unrivaled, and no country has reached it. US military equipment apparently is unable to detect their new generation. Advanced submarine production, called Bleckinge (A26), will also be a major change in the Swedish military industry (the production program of the two submarines up to 2028), and with a length of 65 m, it has the ability to dive underwater for 18 days without interruption, and it has the ability to move up to 2000 tons of weight on the surface (nationalinterest.org).

As Reuters writes, the depth of the Baltic Sea, some called flooded meadows in marine circles, is an average depth of about 60 m, which is too little for the nuclear submarines that make up the bulk of the Russian submarine fleet and all of the US Navy, and this is an advantage for the Swedish submarines that will later serve as NATO's military power. In the Air Force sector, Sweden also has 94 Gripen's multipurpose fighter jets. Stockholm has already entered a significant number of this type of fighter into NATO's military structure. Sweden also has 25,000 troops, with an increase in the number to 100,000 by 2030.

Overall, it can be said that Finland's and Sweden's membership in NATO and their geopolitical position have significantly changed the playground in favor of NATO. Finland, with 1300 kilometers of joint border with Russia, has practically increased the NATO border, and this country and its infrastructures have served NATO's ground movements. Sweden's modern naval fleet, with a hundred years of experience in the international Baltic Seaway, will serve NATO purposes.

Reza Haghighi, an expert at the Institute for Political and International Studies

(The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the IPIS)

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