Sweden's entry into NATO completes the military alliance

2024-02-29 08:01:00, Kosova & Bota CNA

Sweden's entry into NATO completes the military alliance

While NATO has waited patiently for nearly 18 months for Turkey and Hungary to finally give the green light to Sweden's membership in the military alliance, the excitement in Brussels to welcome the country as its 32nd member has not faded. A NATO diplomat has described Sweden's membership as the "last step" in completing NATO's security architecture in the Nordic, Arctic and Baltic regions.

To understand the importance, it is enough to look at the map. Sweden is the fifth largest country in Europe; it is larger than Germany, stretches 1,600 kilometers north-south and has a coastline twice as long. It is clear from conversations with various NATO officials that Sweden's role in NATO is about two things:

First, it will be a hub for activities in the northern part of Europe, where many weapons and troops can be sent and vice versa, uniting Sweden with the Nordic countries, Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway, in the same military organization for once. first in modern history. In 2009, this five agreed on the Nordic Defense Cooperation (Nordefco). Although it is not a de facto common defense pact, it has some features, for example, certain common weapons, so they allow each other the use of military infrastructure and airspace. Now that Sweden is joining NATO, it will be a group of alliance members that has a highly developed regional integration.

Second, Sweden is seen as a stable guarantor of security – especially when it comes to the three Baltic countries, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which will now be connected to the rest of the Nordic region. Sweden will contribute 800 officers to the NATO brigade in Latvia from next year. It will also be decisive in defending every corner of the Baltic states' land at once, because it is able to provide rapid naval and air support. Perhaps the most obvious advantage of Sweden's NATO membership is that the Baltic Sea will become something of a "NATO lake," because the military alliance essentially surrounds the Russian enclave, Kaliningrad, and controls both sides of the Gulf of Finland. which leads to Russia's second largest city, St. Petersburg.

Gotland, the largest island in the Baltic Sea, will suddenly be very important. It belongs to Sweden and is located only 300 kilometers from Kaliningrad, and now it will have a big rise, as its port will be expanded and the regiment that left there years ago has been restored. Next is the strengthening of railway lines in particular, in order to enable the transport of more military goods.

But Sweden's second-largest city and largest port, Gothenburg, on the country's west coast, will also see increased capacity as a major entry point for military equipment and NATO troops. s. Sweden has already spent 2 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on defense, hitting a NATO target from 2014 that many alliance members have yet to meet. Sweden has also reached a Defense Cooperation Agreement with the United States, for sending American military aid to Swedish soil. But, as with other Nordic NATO countries, neither nuclear weapons nor permanent NATO bases will be placed in Sweden.

It is worth noting that the Scandinavian country has been part of NATO's Partnership for Peace since 1994 and became a so-called Enhanced Opportunities Partner for the military alliance 20 years later. Both of these structures have led to deeper cooperation, regular joint exercises and Sweden being under NATO command in countries such as Afghanistan and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Another aspect that many NATO officials are emphasizing as an added value are the weapons that Sweden will bring to the alliance. This country is considered to have two world-class resources: first, submarines which can control large parts of the Baltic Sea, countering any Russian moves. And then the fighter jets produced by Sweden itself, the SAAB JAS Gripen.

The entire Nordic fleet of fighter jets will number over 250, and Stockholm is considering sending some of them to Ukraine. Sweden is believed to be an active participant in NATO air police patrols and not only over the Baltic Sea.

Then we have Sweden's defense industry. This country is one of the largest arms exporters in the world, mainly to the United States. In addition to fighter jets, its weapons industrial base is also strong in other areas such as sensors, weapons, anti-tank infantry weapons and armored vehicles. But, it also has some major weaknesses. Sweden's 38,000-strong army is considered relatively small, and it may need to increase its numbers significantly, although this would be costly. This country also has a severe lack of naval assets, such as warships. Until now, it has relied more on smaller warships which do not possess the best air defense weapons.

And, maybe there could be a NATO bureaucratic issue. It appears that the Nordic/Baltic region will be split into two different Joint Force Commands. Denmark, Finland and Sweden, plus the Baltic trio will be under the NATO command based in Brunsum, Netherlands, while Norway under the Norfolk command in Virginia, which deals mainly with Atlantic security issues and challenges.

This should not be a problem, because the different commands of the force are in constant contact with each other, so no bureaucratic hassle is foreseen. Sources say that it was important, symbolically, for the military organization not to "split" the Baltic Sea in two, leaving Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania on one side and Sweden on the other.

At least for now. However, it may happen that Sweden and Finland end up under Norfolk's command, but only after a joint command is made capable of large-scale operations./ Rel

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