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Updated January 15th, 2024 at 11:38 IST

Sweden nudges citizens to brace for war amid NATO accession and global unrest

In a departure from its tradition of neutrality, Sweden is advising citizens to be more prepared for the possibility of war, citing the changing landscape.

Reported by: Yuvraj Tyagi
Edited by: Yuvraj Tyagi
Swedish Military
Swedish Military | Image:AP
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In a stark shift from its longstanding tradition of neutrality, Sweden is cautioning its citizens to be more prepared than ever for the possibility of war. This call comes as the nation navigates the complex process of joining NATO, a move triggered by Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2022. While Finland successfully joined NATO in April 2023, Sweden faced hurdles in its bid. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan initially criticized Sweden for alleged inaction against Islamophobia, establishing a "red line" for its accession. 

Despite Erdoğan's subsequent approval, the Turkish Grand National Assembly's green light is pending. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has expressed reservations, signaling a cautious approach. However, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg conveyed optimism, stating that Sweden has fulfilled all necessary requirements for membership. He predicted that Sweden would be approved as NATO's 32nd member during the upcoming summit in July, held in Washington, D.C. This approval would consolidate Nordic influence in the region, particularly around the Baltic Sea. 

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Strategic significance of Sweden's NATO entry 

Sweden's inclusion in NATO would bolster the alliance's regional impact, giving the five Nordic nations significant control over the strategically vital Baltic Sea, colloquially referred to as "NATO Lake." The military airpower contributed by Sweden would pose a challenge to Russian forces in the region.

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Now, as geopolitical tensions escalate, Swedish officials are urging citizens to be vigilant. Speaking at an annual conference in Sälen, Swedish Civil Defense Minister Carl-Oskar Bohlin emphasized the need for heightened situational awareness. Bohlin acknowledged the historical peace Sweden has enjoyed but warned against complacency, stating, “There could be war in Sweden.”

Bohlin clarified that his words aimed to create awareness, not fear. Drawing parallels with Ukraine's unforeseen conflicts with Russia, he stressed the importance of societal resilience through practical action. Civil defense, he emphasized, requires translating awareness into tangible measures that raise the threshold for potential threats. 

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Defense Minister echoes warning 

Swedish Defense Minister Pål Jonson echoed Bohlin's sentiments, highlighting the changing global landscape. Referring to conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East, Jonson stated, "the world has become more dangerous than it was just a year ago." With Sweden's strategic location and sparse population, concerns about its geopolitical standing have been longstanding. 

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As European leaders consider potential war spillovers and assess regional stability, the challenge lies in striking a balance between calls for increased military expenditure and citizens' demands for economic growth, welfare, and, in some cases, maintaining economic ties with Russia. The delicate equilibrium between preparedness and economic considerations remains a key dilemma in navigating the evolving global landscape. 

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Published January 15th, 2024 at 11:38 IST

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