Relations with Sweden
After almost 30 years of close partnership with NATO, Sweden submitted its official letter of application to join the Alliance in May 2022. Sweden’s partnership with NATO was historically based on its policy of military non-alignment, which changed following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Since 5 July 2022, Sweden has been an official NATO Invitee, attending meetings and coordinating activities with the Allies. It will become a NATO Ally once all Allies have ratified its Accession Protocol.
- As a NATO partner country, Sweden conducts an open and regular political dialogue and engages in a wide range of practical cooperation with the Alliance. NATO and Sweden actively cooperate in peace-support operations, exercise together and exchange analysis and information.
- NATO has fully respected Sweden's historical policy of military non-alignment.
- Cooperation began when Sweden joined the Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme in 1994 and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (a multilateral forum for dialogue that brings together all Allies and partner countries in the Euro-Atlantic area) in 1997.
- NATO and Sweden have detailed areas of cooperation and timelines in Sweden's Individual Partnership Cooperation Programme (IPCP), which is jointly agreed for a two-year period.
- Sweden has been one of NATO's most active partners and a valued contributor to the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan, the Kosovo Force (KFOR) in Kosovo and NATO Mission Iraq (NMI).
- As an as 'Enhanced Opportunity Partner'1 (a partner country that makes particularly significant contributions to NATO operations and other Alliance objectives), Sweden has experienced enhanced opportunities for dialogue and cooperation with the Allies.
- In light of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which began in February 2022, Sweden (together with Finland) submitted on 18 May 2022 its official letter of application to become a NATO Ally.
- On 4 July 2022, following the Madrid Summit of NATO Leaders, Sweden and Finland completed accession talks at NATO Headquarters and the then 30 Allies signed the Accession Protocols for both countries the following day. After Sweden’s Accession Protocol is ratified by all NATO member countries according to their national procedures, the country will become a NATO Ally.
- Finland joined NATO on 4 April 2023 after completing the accession process. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has highlighted the importance of Sweden also joining the Alliance as soon as possible.
- Under the Partnership Interoperability Initiative, the current Enhanced Opportunity Partners are: Australia, Georgia, Jordan, Sweden and Ukraine.
The road to accession
NATO and Sweden have long shared common values. As one of NATO’s closest partners, Sweden has cooperated extensively with the Alliance for several decades, but the country did not aspire to NATO membership. Sweden’s partnership with NATO has historically been based on its policy of military non-alignment and a firm national political consensus, which NATO has fully respected.
Sweden’s stance changed following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the biggest security crisis in Europe since the Second World War. After a thorough democratic process, Sweden (alongside Finland) submitted its official letter of application on 18 May 2022 to become a NATO Ally. On 4 July 2022, following NATO’s Madrid Summit, Allied Leaders completed accession talks, signing Accession Protocols for Sweden and Finland the following day.
Following the signature of the Accession Protocols, each country had ‘Invitee’ status, allowing their representatives to participate as observers in Allied meetings.
After completing the accession process, Finland acceded to the Washington Treaty, and became a full NATO member country on 4 April 2023. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has highlighted that NATO’s priority is for Sweden’s accession to be completed as soon as possible as well. After Sweden’s Accession Protocol is ratified by all NATO member countries according to their national procedures, the country will also become a NATO Ally.
Key areas of cooperation
Sweden's cooperation with NATO has been mutually beneficial and includes:
Building capabilities and interoperability
- Sweden participated in the PfP Planning and Review Process (PARP), which helps countries develop their military capabilities and enhances interoperability among Allied and partner forces.
- Sweden participated in NATO's Operational Capabilities Concept (OCC), which uses an evaluation and feedback programme to develop and train partner land, maritime, air or Special Operations Forces units that seek to meet NATO standards.
- Sweden participated in numerous PfP exercises and also in NATO Cyber Coalition exercises.
- Sweden is cooperating with several other countries to develop a multinational rapid-reaction force for peace-support operations led by the European Union (EU).
- Beginning in 2014, under the Partnership Interoperability Initiative, Sweden participated in the Interoperability Platform, which brings Allies together with selected partners that are active contributors to NATO's operations.
- Sweden participates in the Strategic Airlift Capability (SAC) initiative.
- Sweden's role in training the forces of NATO partner countries is greatly valued by the Allies. The Swedish Armed Forces International Centre (SWEDINT) provides exercises and training with a focus on humanitarian assistance, rescue services, peace-support operations, civil preparedness and the democratic control of the armed forces. The Nordic Centre for Gender in Military Operations is also located at SWEDINT.
- Sweden has close ties with other Nordic countries and participates in Nordic Defence Cooperation (NORDEFCO), a regional defence initiative that promotes collaboration between Nordic armed forces.
Support for NATO-led operations and missions
- Sweden first contributed to a NATO-led operation in 1995 when it sent a battalion to the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
- Sweden has supported the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo (KFOR) since 1999.
- Swedish personnel worked alongside Allied forces as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan from 2003 to the completion of ISAF's mission in 2014. Sweden also supported the follow-on Resolute Support Mission (RSM) to further train, assist and advise the Afghan security forces and institutions until its completion in September 2021. Sweden contributed over USD 13 million to the Afghan National Army Trust Fund.
- In April 2011, Sweden contributed to Operation Unified Protector (OUP), NATO's military operation in Libya under UN Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973.
- Sweden also participates in NATO Mission Iraq (NMI), NATO’s advisory and capacity-building mission in Iraq.
- Sweden participated in the enhanced NATO Response Force (NRF) in a supplementary role and subject to national decisions. Additionally, Sweden has signed a memorandum of understanding on Host Nation Support which, subject to a national decision, allows for logistical support to Allied forces located on, or in transit through, its territory during exercises or in a crisis.
- Sweden has engaged with NATO's Resilience Committee and cooperates with Allies on regional assessments, critical infrastructure protection, and providing support in dealing with the consequences of a major accident or disaster in the Euro-Atlantic area.
- Sweden has participated in numerous NATO crisis management exercises, and Swedish civil resources have been listed with the Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre (EADRCC), including search-and-rescue teams, medical experts, and protection and decontamination units. Sweden regularly conducts major multifunctional civil-military police exercises (the Viking exercises), which involve many other countries as well as participants from international organisations, non-governmental organisations and agencies.
- Under NATO's Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme, Swedish scientists are actively contributing to a number of activities pertaining to counter-terrorism, chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) defence and environmental security. Notably, experts from Sweden are involved in a top-down project with the primary objective of building long-term capacity for the evaluation of programmes to counter violent extremism.
- Sweden actively supports the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (WPS), and since 2012 has hosted the Nordic Centre for Gender in Military Operations at the Swedish Armed Forces International Centre, to make sure that gender perspectives continue to be integrated into military operations.
- Sweden has supported a number of NATO Trust Fund projects in partner countries, focused on areas such as training and evaluation of military units; medical rehabilitation of injured military personnel; explosive ordnance disposal and countering improvised explosive devices; and professional development of security sector employees.