The Russian invasion of Ukraine has changed the geopolitical landscape of Europe. Sweden, a country that has remained averse to joining any military alliance, has officially submitted its membership application to NATO along with Finland.
Sweden has avoided participating in wars for over a century and has adopted an “alliance-free policy.”
Despite its impeccable record of military neutrality, Sweden is a military powerhouse. Experts point out that the country is “armed and ready to fight” any country that poses a threat to its security.
Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, whose party had opposed joining the alliance for decades, announced recently that her Social Democratic Party had unanimously decided to join NATO.
“Our 200-year-long policy of military non-alignment has served Sweden well,” she remarked. “But the question at hand is whether military non-alignment will keep serving us well.”
She claimed that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was not only “illegal,” but also jeopardized Sweden’s security. Russia had threatened both Sweden and Finland against joining the anti-Russian alliance without mincing any words in the days leading up to their official announcement.
The first time alarm bells rang in Sweden during this war was when four Russian fighter planes, 2 SU-27s and 2 SU-24s, flew into Swedish airspace in March. The Swedish Air Force countered the aggression with its JAS 39 Gripen fighter jet as part of its emergency preparedness.
On the other hand, some reports claimed that Russian bombers were armed with nukes when they entered the Swedish airspace, adding to anxieties about Swedish security.
— Sweden at NATO (@SwedenNato) May 18, 2022
Writing in the Airforce magazine, defense analyst Stefan Geisenheyner says Stockholm has implemented an integrated defense doctrine.
“This system makes effective use of every resource without disturbing the economic growth and prosperity of the nation. Total defense is designed to meet any possible form of attack, atomic or conventional, invasion by sea or by land, and offensive moves by aircraft or guided missiles,” says Geisenheyner.
Sweden’s military and government have participated in significant peacekeeping missions and other military support activities all around the world. It has also maintained close ties with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) over several years, without ever formally joining this Anti-Russia alliance of European countries.
Russian state TV on Finland/Sweden wanting to join Nato:“Their official reason is fear. But they’ll have more fear in Nato. When Nato bases appear in Sweden & Finland, Russia will have no choice but to neutralise the imbalance & new threat by deploying tactical nuclear weapons.” pic.twitter.com/lZ2dz0Q1oC
— Steve Rosenberg (@BBCSteveR) May 15, 2022
Russian state media has, on the other hand, created a narrative that the membership would be a result of fear and coercion by existing NATO members. On its part, Russia has been threatening both countries with dire consequences, signaling a military action if a NATO expansion was to take place with Sweden and Finland.
Sweden is a large manufacturer of weaponry and military equipment despite being non-aligned and having never fought a war in its 150-year history.
Its membership in NATO will potentially strengthen the combat preparedness of the alliance and secure a significant plank in Europe against Russia, whose strategies are considered to be inimical to the security interests of NATO countries.
Sweden’s Formidable Military Industry
The country is home to some very significant defense companies globally, including Saab, BAE Systems, and its subsidiary Bofors.
Saab is a Swedish Aerospace company that manufactures Gripen fighter jets, one of the best fourth-generation combat aircraft in the world today.
The Saab JAS 39 Gripen is a light single-engine multi-role fighter aircraft used by the Swedish Air Force. It is one of the most prominent and affordable non-stealth aircraft in the world that has posed a stiff challenge to some of the best fighter jets in global sales.
The aircraft was the first fighter jet in the world to be equipped with the lethal Meteor air-to-air missile, a beyond visual range (BVR) weapon capable of tracking and killing targets at distances of up to 80 miles. The Gripen C aircraft can carry four Meteor missiles, whereas the Gripen E can carry seven.
The Saab Gripen C is one of the most reliable combat aircraft available in the world today and has been a part of successful NATO-led missions and several air policing requirements across the world.
The Saab JAS 39 Gripen operates in six countries and competes against some of the world’s most modern jets. It is already operational in the Czech Republic, Hungary, South Africa, Thailand, and the United Kingdom.
The Swedish Air Force, in particular, uses 90% local products and boasts “some of the finest, most advanced aircraft and missiles in the world,” according to Geisenheyner.
“An educated guess would place it at approximately 1,000 to 1,200, thus making the Swedish Air Force one of the strongest on earth,” he claimed, but the official number of fighter jets in the Swedish Air Force remains a secret, reported express.co.uk.
Saab also produces state-of-the-art ground combat systems, missile systems, command and control systems, surface radars, electronic warfare equipment, and, camouflage systems. It has also manufactured oceanic-range and oceanic extended-range submarines, surface ships, and underwater systems for maritime security.
BAE Systems AB
BAE Systems Hägglunds (Sweden) specializes in the development and upgrade of military and civilian vehicle systems. These include world-class fighting vehicles, armored engineering vehicles, and armored personnel carriers.
The Weapon Systems business unit of the international defense corporation BAE Systems Land & Armaments division includes BAE Systems Bofors. It develops, manufactures, markets, and supports weapon systems in the areas of intelligent ammunition, artillery systems, combat vehicle turrets, remote weapon systems, naval guns, and air defense systems.
The Bofors multi-target Naval Gun Systems of 40mm and 57mm caliber with their programmable 3P Ammunition, the 155mm Wheeled Howitzer Archer, the Bofors LEMUR series of Remote Weapon Systems, and intelligent artillery ammunition are the principal products of the company in Sweden.
Few Swedish weapons have gained as much attention as the Bofors 40 mm gun. It has been known as one of the weapons that ultimately determined the outcome of the Second World War.
The 40 mm Bofors gun also served as the foundation for lighter automatic firearms, leading to the development of an entire product family of effective guns with calibers ranging from 20 to 57 mm.
Soon after World War II, it became evident that the Bofors 40 mm cannon would be ineffective against new jet-powered aircraft. However, the ‘reliable old servant’ persisted in modified form in several militaries, and there are still some in the Swedish Navy today, according to Saab.
The relationship between Sweden and Russia became strained in 2008 when covert Russian intervention in Georgia led to the Abkhazia and South Ossetia breaking away from Georgia.
As a neutral country, Sweden has decried Russian expansion in the region, and in 2014, it completely turned against Moscow after the annexation of Crimea.
With Sweden’s unwavering resolve to resist Russia’s high-handedness backed by a very advanced and sophisticated defense industry, the formal addition of the country could tremendously boost the firepower of NATO.