Non-aligned or mis-aligned
June 10, 2015 § 2 Comments
Sweden’s cherished policy of non-alignment [”freedom from alliance”] – is it as concerned with freedom as it purports? When entering in alliance, do you compromise with your freedom, or do you guarantee it?
The Swedish concept of non-alignment, stated as ”free from alliance”, features heavily in the domestic defense and security policy debate and is nailed firmly fast in official statements of Sweden’s position vis à vis NATO and other geopolitical and military powers. This heritage from the Cold War served its purpose as Sweden walked the neutrality tightrope between NATO and the Warsaw Pact (WP). USSR and the WP stumbled into an ignominious grave 1991, leaving Sweden neutral and non-aligned between NATO and Russia, who, stripped of its vassal states, has since represented the semantic and security policy counterweight.
Sweden ceased de facto to be ”free from alliance” with its entry 1995 in the European Union and the subsequent signing of the Treaty of Lisbon in 2009. These actions marked on the one hand Sweden’s solidarity and shared destiny with its European neighbours and, on the other hand, Sweden’s commitment to assist fellow member countries in the event of terrorist attack and other disasters, such as acts of war. With this in regard, Sweden’s professed non-aligned status is either the truth considerably modified or a lie with an infinitesmal grain of truth.
Free – from defense of democracy and human rights?
Sweden’s purported non-alignment should be viewed strictly as not having signed a mutually binding agreement with any defensive coalition (or military pact if you will, particularly in regard to the now defunct WP). By this definition and solely through it can Sweden be called non-aligned. However, in every other respect Sweden is allied to and very much aligned with the democratic and basic human rights values that we share with a very specific segment of the world.
The very word ”non-aligned” (the Swedish ”alliance-free”) implies that carefree Sweden sets itself equally apart – free both from countries and coalitions whose fundamental values include solidarity, freedom, equal justice and international rule of law, and free from totalitarian states or coalitions whose trademark is international hooliganism, repression and denial of everything that we claim as central to society and morality.
As ”alliance-free” Sweden has thus distanced itself both from the international forces of good and from the dark powers that oppose them, choosing to remain in a dusky, inglorious no mans land. This is a curious and hypocritical position that recalls Sweden’s unflattering policy of compromise and accommodation during WWII that, according to the oft-repeated mantra, ”has served Sweden so well” in modern times.
Freedom – from responsibility and solidarity?
To Swedes the non-aligned, ”alliance-free”, status is usually interpreted as something good and desirable – a freedom from demands, a freedom to assume a singular position, a freedom to do as we bloody well please, a freedom to choose our own way irrespective of others, a freedom to remain aloof from war. The mere notion of such freedom is puerile.
Does anyone seriously believe that Sweden is or can be disconnected from the outside world? That we can shutter ourselves behind our porous border and dysfunctional national defence, idly watching (and incidentally admonishing) the outside world as it goes up in flames? That we can disregard entirely the demands of other nations because of our proffered status? That Sweden can sail serenely along in its own private lane in betwixt an outer lane chock full of democracies and an inner lane sparsely trafficked by odious dictatorships?
The concept of non-alignment is false. We ARE allied with the European Union member states and have, additionally, unilaterally and voluntarily allied ourselves to our brother countries through a special declaration of solidarity. We have promised support of some pertinent kind in case of need, to countries who by crushing majority are members of NATO, without getting a similar promise in return. The concept of non-alignment is dead. It is fit for the political scrap heap. We. Are. Not. Non-aligned.
Alliance-free – free from whom?
The only ”freedom from alliance” we may claim is the absence of, not freedom from, binding security guarantees with NATO – for no one in his right mind would even begin to consider joining an alliance with Russia. Right?
As the shadow of Russian territorial revisionism looms yet larger it is becoming ever more obvious that Sweden’s policy of ”freedom from alliance” has a negative value attached to it. It is not merely dysfunctional and ineffective, it invites threat and offers opportunity for Russia to take advantage of – not merely for hapless Sweden but also for the nearby Baltic States. How then can ”freedom from alliance” be something desirable? How ”free from alliance” can a country be in the shadow of an expanding totalitarian nuclear power who does not shirk from invading its neighbours?
Not alliance-free but alliance-less!
I submit that Sweden is ”alliance-less”, or lacking in alliance. This too is a modified truth given our membership in the EU and the associated Treaty of Lisbon. In addition to the EU we are deeply involved with NATO through Partnership for Peace, the Host Nation Support agreement, continuous training exchange and recurring military exercises and a long history of sharing/trading intelligence and technology. The only remaining ”alliance-lessness” is that of binding military guarantees in the event of hostile attack.
Sweden’s bizarre security policy, this ”alliance-lessness”, is currently the focus of domestic discourse. To be without allies along a geopolitical fault line – such as we both are and are not – demands a potent national defence that we do not have and cannot afford to construct on our own. Too many Swedes are reluctant even to defend the country at the most basic level, for various reasons. In order to prove our assertion of remaining ”free from alliance” we must perforce, and urgently, raise our defence budget far above what any politician may promise, as safeguard for all that we hold dear: freedom, democracy, equal justice and sovereignty. The awkward fact that our politicians are not immediately funding our defence to a credible level, while witness to a rapidly deteriorating security environment, implies that we (Sweden) actually do not hold these values as dear as we claim. It is hypocrisy on a heretofore unimaginable level.
How many proposals can we rebuff before the suitor tires?
For as long as we are without allies, without backup or security guarantees – alliance-less – we are at precipitate risk, just like Georgia and Ukraine, to be steamrolled by a Russia who cares not one whit for fancy words or any kind of international rule of law. NATO, who would rejoice at plugging that crazy security vacuum that Sweden has caused in the region through our adamant claim of non-alignment, has time and time again declared and explained that we cannot expect any help whatsoever in case of hostile attack. How indeed can we expect prompt assistance – such as leading politicians, pundits and military men assert – when we mulishly reiterate our desire to remain non-aligned? How many times may we yet emphatically dismiss NATO, such as our Prime Minister is wont to do in front of every cameraman that crosses his path, before they finally dismiss us?
Our eventual membership in NATO – an obvious development for all but the usual worshippers of neutrality left of centre – is an investment in security, not a threat against the same. The safest way to avoid conflict is to join NATO, while the most likely path to conflict and Russian expansion in our region is to remain on the outside. Alliance-less.
The imaginary alliance
Sweden’s alliance-lessness or critical remove from NATO does in fact enable and empower a Russian expansionist policy. Thus the flip side of our non-alignment with NATO implies that we have slid into an informal, non-declared, highly undesirable alliance with Russia: a silent admission to and passive support for values that are diametrically contrary to the western world we claim to be a part of. Bizarre, eh?
A good proportion of Swedes (roughly a third) are wary of NATO, for all the wrong reasons. They should know that NATO is not a military pact of similar kind as the defunct Warsaw Pact. NATO is an alliance for mutual and collective defense, with emphasis on defense: NATO does not launch into aggression. NATO is insurance against aggression. Sweden should make entirely clear, ultimately through membership, that we support and ally our nation to peace, freedom and democracy, to solidarity between people and a secure common future through trade, innovation, advancement of knowledge and cooperation. All of these values should resonate strongly with the emotional core of our society and the very platforms of our political parties.
No to the hypocrisy of alliance-lessness – Yes to NATO!