17:57 GMT +319 January 2020
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    Earlier this week, two of Sweden's top military officers came up with a proposal on "treaty-bound" defense obligations, which non-aligned Sweden currently lacks. As a result, Swedish Supreme Commander Micael Bydén came under fire for breaking Sweden's established policy of non-alignment and drawing the Nordic county into NATO.

    Swedish armoured personnel carriers are seen in Visby harbour, island of Gotland, Sweden September 14, 2016. Picture taken September 14, 2016.
    © REUTERS / TT News Agency/ Soren Andersson
    In the proposal set forth by the Supreme Commander of the Swedish Armed Forces Micael Bydén and Chief of Staff Dennis Gyllensporre, the government's attention is brought to the merits of NATO-style "treaty-bound defense obligations." Despite the somewhat confusing wording, Swedish army bosses made no secret of what was actually meant.

    "NATO is an example of a treaty-bound multilateral cooperation," Rear Admiral Jonas Haggren told the Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet.

    This statement clearly gainsays Sweden's traditional policy of non-alignment, which the Nordic country has maintained for decades after successfully staying out of wars since 1814. Given that, it is no wonder that the "NATO proposal" triggered strong criticism from all corners of the Swedish political arena. Left Party's Stig Henriksson, member of Sweden's parliamentary defense committee, said it bordered on misconduct on the Supreme Commander's part.

    "I don't think it is the responsibility of professional militaries to make this sort of assessment. It is crossing the border between policies and authorities," Stig Henriksson told Svenska Dagbladet.

    Even Liberal Allan Widman, defense committee chairman and long-standing NATO supporter, argued that Bydén was taking sides, which may indicate a course shift.

    "It is as clear as day. There is no other multilateral security cooperation with mandatory defense obligations for the western democracies other than NATO. It is the only option. The generals who wrote this understand it, and the recipients will also perceive it that way. This is beyond any doubt," Allan Widman told Svenska Dagbladet.

    Even Conservative defense committee member Hans Wallmark saw a commitment to NATO. According to Wallmark, the fact that powers within the military were seeking further collaboration with NATO indicated that the government's "uncertainty line" basically was a challenge for Sweden.

    Swedish Armed Forces Communications Director Marcela Sylvander disclaimed allegations of the Supreme Commander siding with NATO in a tweet. According to Sylvander, Bydén was "in favor of a generic discussion of various partnerships and consequences thereof."

    Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom
    © AP Photo / TT News Agency/Henrik Montgomery
    Sweden's current security policy is defined by non-alignment and provides in its current form no room for defense alliances, military pacts, or a "treaty-bound defense obligation" for that matter. Instead, it is based on partnership with NATO and bilateral cooperation with the US and the UK.

    Neither Sweden's unilateral declaration not to remain passive in case of a conflict affecting any of the Nordic or EU countries, nor Article 42.7 in the EU Treaty, which urges the signer nations to provide support and assistance in case of attack, actually constituted "treaty-based obligations," Svenska Dagbladet pointed out.

    Although Sweden's current "red-green" coalition government consisting of the Social Democrats and the Greens repeatedly pledged to uphold the country's time-tested non-allegiance, numerous defense experts and politicians have voiced increasing support for NATO, following the "Russian threat," which is being thrust upon Swedes by mainstream media and government bodies.

    The Swedish Armed Forces have recently played the ubiquitous "Russian aggression" card as a pretext for wringing a SEK500mln ($57mln) budget hike. However, Micael Bydén previously indicated that "at least" 6.5 million SEK ($740mln) was necessary to boost Sweden's defense.

     

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    Tags:
    NATO, Micael Byden, Scandinavia, Sweden
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