Swedish leader warns NATO of security threats in Baltic Sea area

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Sweden’s prime minister has warned that the Scandinavian country faces several security threats, including cyberattacks.

Stefan Lofven says there are “primary” threats facing the country with a military buildup in the Baltic Sea region, especially “in light of Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea.”

His article in the Dagens Nyheter daily on Sunday came before a three-day meeting on national security and defense.

Swedish military officials have demanded increased defense spending because of the perceived threats in the region.

Last month, the strategic Baltic Sea island of Gotland turned down a Russian request to rent harbor space after the government warned it could harm Sweden’s defense and political interests.

Sweden’s National Defense Radio Establishment has warned of a growing number of cyberattacks from abroad, after recording around 100,000 in 2016.

NATO

In 1949 Sweden chose not to join NATO and declared a security policy aiming for non-alignment in peace and neutrality in war. A modified version now qualifies non-alignment in peace for possible neutrality in war. This position was maintained without much discussion during the Cold War. Since the 1990s however there has been an active debate in Sweden on the question of NATO membership in the post–Cold War world. These ideological divides were visible in November 2006 when Sweden could either buy two new transport planes or join NATO’s plane pool, and in December 2006, when Sweden was invited to join the NATO Response Force. Sweden have been active participants in NATO-led missions in Bosnia (IFOR and SFOR), Kosovo (KFOR), Afghanistan (ISAF) and Libya (Operation Unified Protector).

The ruling Swedish Social Democratic Party have remained in favour of neutrality and nonalignment. This preference is shared by their partners, the Green Party, as well as the Left Party. The right wing Moderate Party and the Liberal Party are the largest parties by current parliamentary representation in favor of NATO membership. The 2014 Crimean Crisis is credited with renewed public calls for NATO membership from notable politicians. The Centre Party was opposed to NATO membership until September 2015, when party leadership under Annie Lööf announced that they would motion to change the party policy in order to push for Sweden to join NATO at their next party conference. The Christian Democrats, also previously opposed, likewise voted to support NATO membership at their party meeting on 9 October 2015.

Polling has shown a modest rise in support for NATO membership among Swedes since 2008 according to Ipsos polling, going from 22 percent in May 2008 to 33 percent in January 2015, with another from the SOM Institute in May 2015 showing similar numbers. According to Svenska Dagbladet, support in 2011 was at 23 percent, and has risen somewhat significantly to 41 percent in September 2015, when only 39 percent of respondents were opposed to NATO membership. An October 2014 survey commissioned by TV4 News also showed slightly more respondents supporting membership than opposing it. In 2014, news that a military expert in Sweden had calculated that the country could hold out for a week if attacked temporarily lifted support for NATO membership in poll

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