A day after Finland’s leaders declared unequivocally that the nation would join Nato, the Swedish government signalled on Friday that it could soon follow suit, issuing a scathing report outlining how Russian aggression in Ukraine had fundamentally altered the security equation in Europe and saying that only Nato membership would offer the nation protection.
The report did not make an explicit recommendation, but a formal government decision on the issue is expected soon. It came on the same day as top officials from the world’s wealthiest democracies were meeting to confront the prospect of a prolonged war in the heart of Europe and its wider impact around the world — particularly on food and energy prices.
A Russian blockade of all Ukrainian ports has left tens of millions of tons of grain meant for export sitting in silos, worsening a crisis that is threatening food security, particularly in poorer nations. At the same time, Europe is striving to break free from its dependence on Russian energy, a difficult and costly task.
Even as the foreign ministers and agriculture minister from the Group of 7 major economies were meeting on Friday to try to mitigate the broader costs of the war, they are deepening their commitment to Ukraine.
“It is very important at this time that we keep up the pressure on Vladimir Putin by supplying more weapons to Ukraine, by increasing the sanctions,” Britain’s foreign secretary, Liz Truss, said on Friday before the meeting.
The gathering was being held as Russia continued to bombard largely abandoned and physically devastated towns in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions of eastern Ukraine but failed to make any major gains. At the same time, Ukrainian forces have been driving Russians from the area to the north around the city of Kharkiv.
“Swedish Nato membership would raise the threshold for military conflicts and thus have a conflict-preventing effect in northern Europe,” Swedish foreign minister Ann Linde told reporters as she presented the conclusions of an all-party security review that examined the pros and cons of Nato membership for Sweden.
“The most important consequence of Swedish membership of Nato would be that Sweden would be a part of Nato’s collective security and included in security guarantees according to...Article 5.”
Article 5 of Nato’s founding treaty says that an attack on any Nato country should be seen as an attack on all.
While Sweden and Finland have long had close relations with Nato and regularly take part in exercises and its high-level meetings, they are not covered by its security guarantee. The government said the report did not constitute a recommendation to join Nato.
The Left and Greens did not support the report. An application would have to be approved by all Nato countries and later, by Sweden’s parliament.
New York Times News Service and Reuters