Storm brewing in Sweden over NATO’s nuclear weapons
Last week we let you know about a proposal by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and former President of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias, for NATO to trade its American-owned nuclear weapons in Europe for a peace deal in Ukraine with Russia.
The United States has special agreements with five NATO countries to base nuclear weapons on their soil: Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, and Turkey.
Now, with Sweden (and Finland) ready to join the alliance, questions are being asked: How will NATO membership impact Sweden’s traditional disarmament position? Is Sweden prepared to accept U.S. nuclear weapons on its soil, too?
Writing in the magazine that publishes the world-famous “Doomsday Clock” on its cover, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Jens Petersson says that, with Sweden and Finland on a fast track to become members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the consequences for Sweden’s traditional stance on disarmament issues are now becoming more obvious.
“Many voices asked for a debate on these issues before Sweden applied for membership, but it is not until now that signs of such public discussion have been broadly seen. Sweden’s new alignment raises several questions also on the international level,“ he writes.
“In a letter of intent dated July 5, 2022, Sweden’s Foreign Minister Ann Linde wrote to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg that ‘Sweden accepts NATO’s approach to security and defense, including the essential role of nuclear weapons, intends to participate fully in NATO’s military structure and collective defence planning processes and is willing to commit forces and capabilities for the full range of Alliance missions.’”
Swedish disarmament proponents have harshly criticized this new step. Swedish-born Beatrice Fihn, who leads the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) and accepted the Nobel Peace Prize alongside Canadian Setsuko Thurlow in 2017, signed a statement that said, “Sweden is … willing to offer capacity to the ‘full range of the alliance missions.’ This includes use of nuclear weapons, which would be a violation of international law.” It continued: “In addition, Sweden is opening up to accept and receive nuclear weapons on Swedish territory. We cannot interpret it in any other way.”
Jens Petersson fears that NATO membership will shift Sweden’s support for disarmament toward NATO’s view that nuclear weapons are essential.
“After eventually becoming a NATO member, Sweden will likely continue viewing nuclear disarmament as something desirable. From time to time, Sweden will join hands with other moderate NATO members on arms control and disarmament issues. In general Sweden is, however, known to be loyal to organizations it joins, and for this reason Sweden will be less likely to initiate more independent initiatives in the future, in my view,” he concludes.
- Read “As Sweden gets ready for NATO, will its approach to nuclear weapons change?” by Jens Petersson, published on July 27, 2022 in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
(Cover:: MALMSLÄTT, SWEDEN- 5 MAY 2018: Soldiers in the Swedish Armed Forces. Photo Jeppe Gustafsson via Shutterstick)