Swedish defense minister: Sweden should have joined NATO decades ago
Sweden hopes to join NATO by the time of the alliance's upcoming summit in mid-July, while had it been up to him, Sweden would have joined decades ago, the country's Minister of Defense Pål Jonson told ERR in an interview.
Jonson said that all Nordic countries are committed to supporting Ukraine. The combined value of military assets they've sent to Ukraine is close to €4.4 billion.
Asked whether Sweden is disappointed that Finland has joined NATO ahead of it, the defense minister said that is not the word he would use and added that Finland's NATO membership is a good thing for Sweden's security. "We want to join NATO by the Vilnius summit on July 11-12," Jonson said.
"I also think it will be an important moment for the future of NATO to confirm again defensive and deterrence plans, adopt new regional plans and force model, command and control structure. If Sweden is inside NATO, I think that's going to consolidate the whole northern flank, be good for security and stability in Northern Europe if we can join by the Vilnius summit."
Pål Jonson said that as far as he is concerned, Sweden should have joined NATO decades ago, while the country was aware that Turkey had more concerns about Sweden's accession compared to Finland.
He said that while Hungary and Turkey will have to make their own decisions, Sweden believes it is important for it to join as soon as possible and feels supported by other NATO members.
Jonson was asked to what extent Russia's attack of Ukraine changed Sweden's defense policy. He said there has been a shift in Sweden's Russian perception. "The change started in December 2021 when Russia unveiled its so-called legally binding treaty of a new European security architecture. That stated some things which were totally unacceptable for us and Finland. It stated that Sweden and Finland would not be allowed to join NATO, it required NATO to withdraw all of its assets and capabilities to 1997 borders," Jonson said, suggesting that this made two things clear. First, that Russia did not consider Finland and Sweden to be sovereign nations in charge of their own decisions, which was totally unacceptable. Second, that NATO activity being restricted in the region would negatively impact the countries' security. "And the best way to push back against something like this is to go for full NATO membership."
The Swedish defense minister said that there is a clear difference between NATO partners and allies, and if one wants access to Article 5 and common defense planning, it is necessary to become a member.
He described Finland and Sweden joining NATO as the mother of all unintended consequences for Russian strategic thinking. "Now, Russia has ended up with an extra 1,300 kilometers of NATO border due to its illegal and unprovoked aggression against Ukraine."
Jonson said that, after adjusting the way Sweden presents its GDP, the country's defense spending will exceed 2 percent of GDP by 2026.
The minister also said that Sweden and Estonia going from partners to allies opens up new avenues for defense cooperation.
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Editor: Marcus Turovski