NATO Hawks Raise Their Voice as Swedish Defence Minister Speaks Against EU Army
06:18 GMT 03.09.2021 (Updated: 06:21 GMT 03.09.2021)
© AP Photo / CHRISTOF STACHEUS soldiers at the exercise area in Grafenwoehr, Germany
© AP Photo / CHRISTOF STACHE
Sweden has often been called “non-aligned in the name only” due to its growing cooperation with NATO, despite not formally joining the treaty. Calls to formalise the relationship are heard every now and then, spurred by the current situation.
Swedish Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist has once again re-affirmed Swedish scepticism toward a united EU force, which has been floated anew in the wake of the Afghanistan crisis.
Among others, the idea of creating a large-scale European task force has been suggested by EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell, to the joy of the French, as President Macron has repeatedly advocated for a “true European army”.
By contrast, Hultqvist has been more reserved about the proposal.
“I don't see that as the main line for solving these problems,” Peter Hultqvist told Swedish Radio.
Instead, the defence minister lifted up cooperation with the US and the transatlantic link as crucial for Europe's defence.
“This link must hold because it is very important for the balance in our part of the world, especially considering what is happening in Russia,” Hultqvist said, once again using the “Russian threat” as a rhetorical tool.
Domestically, Hultqvist's stance triggered a flurry of articles from NATO hawks and lobbyists.
The newspaper Expressen ran an opinion piece titled “NATO is the answer you're fumbling for, Hultqvist”.
“There is already an organisation whose purpose and expertise is to protect Europe. Under NATO's blue banner, Europe's defence forces have both practised and fought side by side. There is the ability to lead, make decisions and carry out operations whenever and wherever required,” columnist Linda Jerneck said.
“Europe and Sweden cannot do without the US and NATO”, the newspaper Dagens Nyheter suggested, reminding the Swedish public that “NATO exists and is functioning well”. In the words of columnist Gunnar Jonsson, “doubling the alliance would in effect dilute it”.
Dagens Industri published an opinion piece with an equally blunt headline: “Say no to an EU army and yes to NATO”. Columnist Frida Wallnoor maintained that NATO is “undoubtedly better placed to organise potential operations”.
Sweden has been often called “non-aligned in name only” due to its growing cooperation with NATO, without formally joining the treaty. In recent years, calls to formalise the increasingly closer relation have been heard from several parties, including the largest opposition party the liberal-conservative Moderates. However, the ruling Social Democrats have been resisting the push.