Sweden, you really need to find strategies to defeat your Hockey fixation with Canada. It has now clearly become a serious foreign policy barrier and threatens your nation’s security.
I read with intense interest Ove Bring’s expert analysis of the implications of the EU and NATO expressions of defense solidarity (Attachment 2 of Tomas Bertelmans and Åsa Anclairs well-structured and informative report on International Defense Cooperation). In this analysis, Professor Bring compares the force of law and precedent as relates to both the Treaty on European Union (Lisbon Treaty) Article 42 (7), the NATO Article V, and the Swedish unilateral solidarity declaration of 2009 formulations of the signatories intentions with respect to mutual support and solidarity in crisis.
At risk of oversimplifying, Professor Bring’s analysis concludes that the EU treaty, of which Sweden is a signatory, is legally binding under international law, though there was some room left for maneuver for the individual nation’s unique security policy situation. However, in its own solidarity declaration, Sweden withdrew itself from the exception offered in Article 42(7) and fully accepts the binding nature of the article. The professor further concludes that the legal difference between the EU and NATO article V formulation (of which Sweden is not a signatory) is negligible, though the differences in preparation and resourcing yields a tangible difference in credibility.
So it appears that Sweden has no issue with legally committing itself to mutual defense obligations, it only reserves itself on questions concerning whom those obligations are with, or whether those obligations should be taken seriously. It was the stated policy of the social democratic-led coalition while they were in opposition that neutrality and subsequently militarily non-alignment had served Sweden well, largely based on the notion that Sweden was credibly seen as able to defend its territory and remain free from foreign exploitation of Swedish territory for aggressive purposes. After regaining power, the Social Democratic government updated that policy to state they believe this policy continues to serve Sweden well. Clearly then, credibility is valued by Sweden.
That leaves only the question of with whom Sweden chooses to form the bonds of solidarity. Sweden has multilaterally entered in to a treaty with all of the EU. In addition, Sweden has unilaterally welcomed its Nordic neighbors outside of the EU in to its circle of desired security partners, specifically Norway and Iceland (interestingly, both founding members of NATO.) Looking at the complete list of NATO members, one finds only four members not within the elite company of Sweden’s chosen few—Turkey, Albania, the United States, and Canada. What can be deduced from this list? First, consider Turkey. Sweden is among the most active voices encouraging the EU to welcome Turkey into its number, and thereby extending Sweden’s commitment of solidarity. Sweden is also favorable to Albanian membership in the EU, and shares an additional special bond of solidarity in standing firm together in the EU against the tragedy of permitting unnecessary highway traffic to be routed around capital city centers. That leaves only the NATO members on the opposite side of the Atlantic, the United States and Canada, as potentially distasteful partners to include in Sweden’s elite few. After the Olav Palme years, in which Canada and Sweden shared very synchronized disgust for American behavior in Vietnam, it is easily to conclude that the real problem is the United States. But deeper reflections on Sweden’s policies and actions belie that conclusion. Even during Palme’s time, the desire to keep the United States as a partner, even if a hidden one, is well proven. Now Sweden’s zeal for military and political contact with the United States is arguably unmatched by that with any other nation.
Having lived within a few hundred miles of the Canadian border most of my life, I admit we Americans have our share of rivalries with our friends to the North. We have even fought a war with them more recently that Sweden has with Russia. But time has healed those wounds. They are a wonderful people and I dare say that we trust them as much as any other Nation. We value having a safe border to the North and even have come to like their flannel plaid shirts and floppy hats when the weather so requires. As a true friend of Sweden and Canada, I urge you both to put your differences aside, look past the 2014 Winter Olympics, and finally welcome Canada into your circle of trust.