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NATO membership will harm Swedish international image and cause economic losses

The country may see a decrease in its exports if confirmed its adhesion to NATO

By Lucas Leiroz | September 16, 2022

Having military strength is an important issue for any country in the world. However, some states benefit from the image of “peaceful countries” and “neutral nations”. This is precisely the Swedish case. Decades ago, Sweden began to invest in a security policy based on absolute neutrality. Its image before international partners is seen as that of a country that does not get involved in conflicts and cares abut peace. Therefore, changing this stance with a possible NATO membership could have a strong impact on Swedish foreign policy.

One of the direct and immediate impacts would be on the economic issue. The Scandinavian country may suffer losses in its exports due to the possible NATO membership. Some countries that currently import products from – or export to – Sweden would certainly consider it problematic after the accession to the alliance, which would lead them to seek other trading partners. The Swedes would begin to deal with a reality that is common to every country that invests in becoming a military power: facing boycotts and restrictions in negotiations with countries with different interests.

In this sense, Per Högselius, professor of history of technology at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), comments that the Swedish state is very sensitive to world changes and depends on a stable scenario to keep its economic and industrial structure solid and strong. One of the points that most benefits the country allowing it to remain free of problems concerning the international scenario is precisely its image of a small and unarmed state – which will surely change now.

“Swedish industry has often benefited from the fact that Sweden has enjoyed an image abroad as a small, harmless country with good relations with in principle all other countries (…) Sweden is extremely sensitive to events in the outside world, and much more so today than in the 1970s”, Högselius said.

In fact, many problems for the national industry may arise after the confirmation of Sweden’s entry into NATO. The country’s main exports are focused on machinery, transport equipment and chemical products. Interestingly, these three sectors account for the majority of Swedish exports to China. In a scenario with increasing tensions between China and NATO, with the alliance considering the Asian country one of its main threats, it is possible to predict that Beijing, despite being quite pragmatic, may try to seek other partners to obtain some of the products it currently imports from Sweden.

When we analyze the European scenario, many things can get worse too. In a future eventual situation of pacification of the conflict in Ukraine and normalization of relations with Russia, Sweden will be unable to reverse the path that is being taken now, if its entry into NATO is really consolidated. The Scandinavian country will be viewed with suspicion by the Russians, who will place limits on bilateral cooperation – which will take Sweden off an important trade route for iron, steel, fertilizers, among other essential products. In other words, decisions taken against Russia now could seriously affect business in the future.

Furthermore, Swedish diplomacy itself would be destabilized by joining NATO. This entry would be the immediate reversal of decades of work built by Swedish strategists to transform the country into a militarily neutral and economically developed pole. Foreign policy focused on neutrality and peace would be replaced by a program of military objectives unilaterally instituted by the alliance. In practice, all countries that currently see Sweden as a non-ideological and geopolitically harmless partner would act more cautiously during negotiations with the Swedes as they would also be negotiating with a new representative of the largest military alliance on the planet.

The most interesting thing is to note how the possible accession, in addition to such economic losses, will bring few real strategic benefits to Sweden. As established by the regulations, the country will commit to militarily assist any other member state of the alliance in the event of an attack. But in exchange for such a commitment, little is offered to the Swedes. In fact, Sweden will remain a militarily weak country, but with many more international enemies than it has today.

Unfortunately, however, the Western-supported anti-Russian paranoia seems to have overcome the strategic sense of Swedish decision-makers, in addition to scaring the local population. Currently, almost all parties are support joining NATO, as do 58% of the population. It is very likely that the process will be completed at some point in the near future and the country will take this extremely negative step for its own interests.

Considering that Sweden is already going through an internal political crisis, with PM Magdalena Andersson having announced that she will resign after the defeat of her supporters in the parliamentary elections, the near future will be tense for the country. The next Swedish government will deal with strong popular and parliamentary pressure, in addition to excessive obligations in NATO, while the country will continue to be militarily weak, but it will lose its neutrality status, bringing impacts in all areas of its foreign policy.

Lucas Leiroz is a researcher in Social Sciences at the Rural Federal University of Rio de Janeiro; geopolitical consultant.

September 16, 2022 - Posted by | Economics, Russophobia | , ,

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