NATO’s relations with Sweden

  • Last updated: 26 Oct. 2015 15:07

NATO and Sweden actively cooperate in peace and security operations and have developed practical cooperation in many other areas including education and training, and defence reform.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Swedish Defence minister Peter Hultqvist

Swedish Defence minister Peter Hultqvist and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (Nov. 2014)

Swedish cooperation with NATO is based on a longstanding policy of military non-alignment and a firm national consensus. From this basis, Sweden is not pursuing NATO membership, but selects areas of cooperation with NATO that match joint objectives.

The Allies view Sweden as an effective and pro-active partner and contributor to international security, which shares key values such as the promotion of international security, democracy and human rights.

An important area of cooperation is the country’s support for NATO-led operations. Sweden is currently contributing to the peacekeeping operations in Kosovo and Afghanistan, and is planning to contribute to the post-2014 mission in Afghanistan. In the past, it supported the NATO-led operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Sweden is one of the Alliance’s most active partners. It has been cooperating with NATO since the creation of the Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme in 1994 and has since been utilising partnership tools to expand this relationship and exchange knowledge and experience with Allied and partner countries in a myriad of different fields.

  • Key areas of cooperation

    Security cooperation

    Sweden is an active contributor to NATO-led operations. Its first contribution dates back to 1995 when it sent a battalion to the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Since 1999, Sweden has provided a mechanised company and support units to the peacekeeping force in Kosovo. Since 2003, Swedish personnel have been working alongside Allied forces as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, providing specialist units and logistical support. Sweden led the multinational Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Mazar-e Sharif from 2006. The PRT became a Transition Support Team in 2012, under the lead of Sweden’s Senior Civilian Representative in northern Afghanistan. Sweden is planning to be an operational partner in the post-2014 NATO-led mission in Afghanistan – Resolute Support.

    In April 2011, Sweden decided to contribute to Operation Unified Protector (OUP), NATO’s military operation in Libya under United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973. As part of Operation Unified Protector, the Swedish Air Force deployed eight JAS Gripen aircraft to Sigonella Air Base in Sicily, Italy to enforce the no-fly zone over Libya, supported by an air-to-air refuelling capable C-130.

    Sweden participates in numerous PfP exercises. The country makes a number of units available, on a case-by-case basis, for multinational operations, training and exercises, including EU- and NATO-led. The objective for the Swedish Armed Forces is to be able to sustain up to 2,000 personnel continuously deployed on operations, either nationally or internationally. This pool of forces includes significant land, naval and air assets, including mechanised and armoured units, submarine, corvettes, combat and transport aircraft with a deployable airbase unit, combat and combat service support elements, as well as specialist support.

    In 2013, Sweden joined the NATO Response Force (NRF), alongside Finland and Ukraine, and it participated in Exercise Steadfast Jazz which served to certify the NRF rotation for 2014.

    Sweden’s role in training the forces of NATO partner countries is also greatly valued by the Allies. In April 1999, NATO formally recognised the military training centre in Almnäs as a PfP Training Centre. In 2004, the centre moved to new premises in Kungsängen, north of Stockholm. SWEDINT, the Swedish Armed Forces International Centre’s activities include exercises and training, with a focus on humanitarian assistance, rescue services, peace-support operations, civil emergency planning and the democratic control of the armed forces. The centre regularly organises courses and training exercises within the PfP. In January 2012 - in support of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and related resolutions on strengthening the role of women, peace and security – the Nordic countries established a Nordic Centre for Gender in Military Operations, to make sure that gender perspectives continue to be integrated into military operations.

    Sweden’s close ties with its neighbours Norway, Denmark and Finland are reflected in its participation in Nordic Defence Cooperation (NORDEFCO), a further practical and efficient way for like-minded states to contribute to regional and international security and to practise cooperation, including pooling and sharing. In Sweden’s case this activity is pursued alongside the Nordic Battlegroup and regionally around the Baltic Sea and in northern Europe.

    Sweden participates in the Operational Capabilities Concept (OCC). It continues to submit its land, maritime and air force units for evaluation in accordance with the NATO OCC Evaluation and Feedback programme. Sweden participated in the March 2011 Baltic Region Training Event (BRTE). Conducted by NATO Air Command Ramstein, BRTE is a series of planning, training and execution events for enhancing interoperability and building capabilities in the Baltic States.

    Defence and security sector reform

    Participating in peacekeeping and peace-support operations alongside NATO Allies has complemented Sweden’s own process of military transformation. Participation in the PfP Planning and Review Process (PARP) influences Swedish planning and activities, aimed at developing the capabilities and enhancing the interoperability of the Swedish Armed Forces. The Allies and other partners also benefit from Swedish expertise. For instance, Sweden contributes to NATO’s programme of support for security-sector reform in the western Balkans, southern Caucasus and Central Asia.

    Sweden is contributing to the development of the EU Battlegroup concept. It is cooperating with Estonia, Finland and Norway, among other countries, in the development of a multinational rapid reaction force for EU-led peace-support operations. During periods that the Swedish parts of the force are not on stand-by for EU needs, they will be available for operations led by both the UN and NATO.

    Sweden joined the Strategic Airlift Interim Solution (SALIS) in March 2006 and is also participating in the Strategic Airlift Capability (SAC) initiative. Designed to meet the strategic airlift requirements of SAC member nations for national missions, SAC resources can be used for NATO, UN, EU or other international missions.

    Sweden has also supported a number of Trust Fund projects conducted in other partner countries which were focused on areas such as the retraining and reintegration of military personnel, stockpile management and the destruction of surplus weapons.

    Civil emergency planning

    Civil emergency planning is a major area of bilateral cooperation. The aim is for Sweden to be able to cooperate with NATO Allies in providing mutual support in dealing with the consequences of a major accident or disaster in the EAPC (Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council) area. In line with this, Sweden has participated in numerous NATO Crisis Management Exercises, in addition to several maritime exercises. Additionally, Swedish civil resources have been listed with the EADRCC (Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre). Units include search and rescue teams, medical experts and protection and decontamination units.

    Sweden has also previously worked with NATO to improve both emergency response and crisis management. In April 2011, Sweden conducted a joint civil-military-police exercise, Viking 11. It took place in six different countries simultaneously with Sweden as the lead nation and with participants from the United Nations, a wide range of non-governmental organisations and agencies, armed forces from about 25 countries and civilians and police from various countries and organisations. The overall objective of Viking 11 was to train and educate the participants in planning and conducting a UN-mandated Chapter VII Peace Operation/Crisis Response Operation.

    Science and environment

    Under the Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme, scientists from Sweden have participated in numerous advanced research workshops and seminars on a range of topics. Topics have included information security, mesoscopic physics, the environmental role of wetlands, the protection of civilian infrastructure against terrorism, and human trafficking.

  • Framework for cooperation

    NATO and Sweden detail areas of cooperation and timelines in Sweden’s Individual Partnership Cooperation Programme (IPCP), which is jointly agreed for a two-year period. Key areas include security and peacekeeping cooperation, crisis management and civil emergency planning.

    Participation in the PfP Planning and Review Process (PARP) is helps develop the interoperability and capabilities of Swedish forces which might be made available for NATO training, exercises and multinational crisis-management and peace-support operations.

  • Evolution of relations

    Sweden has a longstanding policy of military non-alignment that remains in effect today. In line with this, Sweden is not pursuing NATO membership but joined the new Partnership for Peace in 1994 to work alongside Allies in areas where bilateral aims converge. In 1997, the country joined the new Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC). Sweden has demonstrated a strong political commitment to the EAPC, and has been generous in its financial contributions to Partnership Trust Funds, as well as offering practical assistance to other partners though the provision of training.

    Sweden joined the PfP Planning and Review Process (PARP) in 1995 to foster interoperability with NATO forces in peace-support operations. Since joining PfP, Sweden has played an active role and offers expertise to other partners and Allies, with a special focus on peacekeeping, civil emergency planning and civil-military cooperation.

    Key milestones


    Sweden joins the Partnership for Peace (Pfp).


    Sweden joins the PfP Planning and Review Process (PARP).


    Sweden contributes forces to the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Bosnia and Herzegovina.


    Swedish forces participate in the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo.
    SWEDINT, the Swedish Armed Forces International Centre, is designated a PfP Training Centre.


    Swedish forces join NATO-led forces in Afghanistan.


    Sweden hosts live demonstration, involving NATO Allies and Swedish civilian and military forces, to test new ways of effectively sharing critical information in emergency situations (Exercise Viking 2008).


    In September, Sweden conducts a joint exercise with NATO in Enköping designed to enhance civil-military cooperation during civil emergency.


    In May, Swedish Minister of Defence Sten Tolgfors visits NATO HQ.


    In March, Sweden co-hosts a seminar “NATO’s New Strategic Concept – Comprehensive Approach to Crisis Management” with Finland.


    In April, Sweden participates in a NATO Response Force (NRF) maritime exercise (Brilliant Mariner).


    In May, Sweden participates in an international cyber defence exercise (Baltic Cyber Shield) organised by several Swedish governmental institutions and the Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence.


    Sweden conducts multinational Exercise Viking 2011 with international organisations and NGOs participating in the operations.


    In April, Sweden decides to contribute to Operation Unified Protector, NATO’s military operation in Libya under UN Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973.


    In January, a Nordic Centre for Gender in Military Operations is established, hosted by the Swedish Armed Forces International Centre.


    In January, NATO’s Secretary General visits Sweden to discuss how to further strengthen cooperation.
    Sweden contributes to the NATO Response Force and participates in Exercise Steadfast Jazz, which served to certify the NRF rotation for 2014.


    In January, NATO’s Secretary General visits Sweden to discuss further potential for the relationship.
    Sweden and Finland participate in Iceland Air Meet 2014, under the command of Norway. This occurred during Norway’s deployment to Iceland to conduct NATO’s mission to provide airborne surveillance and interception capabilities to meet Iceland’s peacetime preparedness needs.