NATO Entering Ukraine Risks World War III, Swedish Defence Minister Warns
07:43 GMT 10.03.2022 (Updated: 07:44 GMT 10.03.2022)
So far, non-aligned Sweden has, alongside its NATO partners, assisted Ukraine with arms amid Russia's special operation and is currently investigating other types of help, including cyberwarfare, but stopped short of sending military personnel, only allowing volunteers.
Swedish Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist has ventured that if NATO sends its soldiers to Ukraine, where a Russian special operation is currently taking place, it would put Europe on the brink of a world war.
"If NATO or the West go in with troops, then you open up for the third world war, and no one wants that", Hultqvist told national broadcaster SVT.
Hultqvist also claimed that the Kremlin has bigger plans than "taking control of Ukraine", suggesting that Moscow may eye other former Soviet Republics as well and calling the dissolution of the Soviet Union a "great trauma for Russia". Moscow, for its part, has emphasised that the special operation is solely aimed to demilitarise and de-Nazify Ukraine, as well as protect the People's Republic of Donbass it earlier recognised and denied any occupation plans.
At the same time, Hultqvist stood by his statement from November 2021 that as long he serves as defence minister, Sweden will never apply for NATO membership, a hot-button issue in the historically non-aligned country. Hultqvist assured that the hasn't changed his mind, but added that in such issues "you should never say never".
Earlier this week, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said that a Swedish application for NATO membership is not relevant under the current circumstances, adding that it would further destabilise the situation in Europe. In recent years, Russia has been a fixture in Sweden's perennial NATO debate, with the bloc magnifying and hyperbolising the fictitious "Russian threat" for the sake of military budget increases and troop buildups.
Sweden has sent arms and munitions to Ukraine and is investigating other types of assistance, including strengthening its cyber capabilities, but has so far stopped short of sending military personnel.
Yet, according to the newspaper Kristianstadbladet, hundreds of Swedish volunteers are on their way to Ukraine. Russia warned that pro-Ukraine foreign fighters won't get POW status and will be treated as criminals.
Sweden's decision to arm Ukraine alone was historic, as it marked the first time the Scandinavian country agreed to send arms to a conflict zone since the Winter War of 1939. In a survey by newspaper Expressen and pollster Sifo, merely 39 percent of Swedes said their country should assist Ukraine with weapons.