05:11 GMT28 January 2021
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    NATO Seeks Expansion to Eastern Europe (362)

    While the rest of Europe still remains baffled by Brexit and its implications, the UK's desire to leave the EU has raised security concerns in Stockholm. Surprisingly, Brits' farewell to the EU is being peddled as a prerequisite for non-aligned Sweden to enter NATO.

    Earlier this week, the much-desired words of warning were delivered by Estonia's Stockholm-born president Toomas Hendrik Ilves, who remains one of the most vocal opponents of Russia of all NATO head of states. According to Ilves, Sweden's security is about to be weakened substantially by Brexit.

    During his guest appearance at the Almedalen Week, a major political event in Sweden, traditionally held on the Island of Gotland ever since the Olof Palme days in the 1960s, Ilves pointed out that Sweden, together with other non-NATO members, risks serious security breaches by forfeiting Britain's protection, granted by the EU solidarity clause.

    Today, Sweden and other EU members share a mutual responsibility to stand up in the event that a fellow member state face a severe attack.

    "Those who are not members of NATO will be unable to count on an equally high level of protection with the UK out of the EU. Today, Britain remains a formidable military force in the EU," Ilves pointed out to Swedish national broadcaster SVT.

    Finland's President Sauli Niinisto and Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Lofven (File)
    © REUTERS / Lehtikuva/Roni Rekomaa
    Sweden's Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist of the Social Democrats Party, however, would not make a mountain of a molehill over the forfeited solidarity clause.

    "I have had a conversation with the British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon, and he noted the UK's high level of ambition and firm commitments when it comes to contributing to security in Europe. We have also recently signed a comprehensive bilateral agreement of over 50 points with the UK, and I regard the country as a very close friend," Peter Hultqvist told SVT.

    During the same Almedalen Week, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven stated that Sweden is willing to further strengthen its cooperation with NATO, without considering membership possibilities. However, some of the Social Democrats' rival parties seem to have caught the fear bug and believe this is insufficient.

    The Conservative Party believes the present-day security situation is such that the government instead should open up for full-scale NATO membership.

    "The government shuns the idea of NATO membership like the plague," Conservative defense policy spokesperson Hans Wallmark told the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, underlining the current line was contrary to the pursuit of full membership.

    According to Wallmark, the UK is in the aftermath of Brexit bound to further strengthen in its involvement in NATO, which is another argument for Sweden to approach the military alliance.

    Even Liberal Party leader Jan Björklund used security concerns for Sweden to join NATO after Brits' waved their hands to the EU. Following Brexit, his party's motto has been "More Europe," Dagens Nyheter reported.

    At present, the four conservative parties (the Liberals, the Conservatives, the Christian Democrats and the Centrists) are in favor of Sweden's NATO membership, whereas the parliamentary majority made up of the Social Democrats, the Greens, the Left and the Sweden Democrats remain opposed.

    NATO Seeks Expansion to Eastern Europe (362)


    Out of Friendship? 'Neutral' Sweden Salutes NATO Forces and Inches Closer
    Not Without My Neighbor: Finland, Sweden Ponder NATO Membership, Again
    European Union, NATO, Sveriges Television, Stefan Löfven, Peter Hultqvist, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Scandinavia, Gotland Island, Sweden
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