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Sweden’s and Finland’s NATO Membership Poses Great Risks

Peace and security cannot be built through military alliances and rearmament. NATO membership makes our countries and the world more insecure, write peace organisations in Sweden and Finland.

Image credit: Marek Studzinski
WILPF Sweden and WILPF Finland
16 May 2022

In both Sweden and Finland, major security policy decisions are now being accelerated. The decisions affect our countries’ own security and also our opportunities to work for sustainable peace and disarmament in the world. Political processes, like public opinion, are marked by the anxiety and fear that many feel in light of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in violation of international law. It is very risky to change the basic foundations of our countries’ security policy on the basis of an emotional and heated debate, not least in a tense situation with an unpredictable Russia. The views of the Finnish and Swedish governments may have changed – but the risks of NATO membership are the same.

We peace organisations know that sustainable peace and security can not be built through military alliances and armaments. NATO membership makes our countries and the world more insecure. In the short term because it risks increasing tensions in an already conflict-ridden situation and because it could pose a direct threat to our countries. In the long run, because it contributes to a more polarised and militarised world based on the threat of using nuclear weapons. 

In its nuclear weapons policy, NATO states that as long as there are nuclear weapons, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance. There are no restrictions in the policy on when or how nuclear weapons could be used, including the use of nuclear weapons for a first attack (the alliance has no so-called no-first-use policy). A membership would mean that Sweden and Finland submit to the American nuclear umbrella (or nuclear shadow, better known) and participate in NATO’s joint nuclear planning and nuclear exercises. In practice, this means that our countries would participate in preparations for a nuclear bombing of civilians. 

NATO’s defense strategy is based on a belief in deterrence: threatening its opponents with violence and war with the aim of preventing it from attacking. Threats of violence are the alliance’s main tool and its whole starting point. The deterrence is based on military rearmament, which contributes to an armaments spiral, where no state wants to feel at a disadvantage and therefore equips itself as soon as an opponent does so. There is a great risk that the deterrence that is alleged to provide security instead leads to increased mistrust, more weapons in circulation, and a higher risk that armed conflict will actually break out. NATO membership risks dragging Sweden and Finland into this spiral of increasing uncertainty. Sustainable peace is not created through weapons and the military trained in warfare, but through negotiations, cooperation, diplomacy, and addressing the root causes of armed conflict. 

The image of NATO as a defender of democracy is incorrect. Non-democracies such as Turkey and Hungary are members. A membership would mean that we ally Sweden and Finland with them. In addition, we are getting closer to US security policy, which has resulted in illegal invasions, war crimes, and a refusal to contribute to international treaties on disarmament and human rights, even before Trump. 

NATO is in itself an obstacle to democratic governance of foreign and security policy. The Alliance is the only major intergovernmental organisation that does not even have a basic information disclosure policy. There is no transparency about NATO’s decisions, which hinders democratic accountability. 

It is not through investments in a military alliance with undemocratic states that we secure the future of people in Sweden, Finland, or the rest of the world, or strengthen or stand up for democracy and sustainable peace. For peace and democracy, investments are needed in conflict prevention work and peaceful conflict management, increased support for democracy and human rights activists, and sharp markings against undemocratic states. 

Sweden and Finland must remain nuclear-weapon-free and strong voices for disarmament, democracy, and peace. This makes both our countries, our immediate area, and the world a safer place. 

Agnes Hellström  
Chairwoman of the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Association  

Laura Lodenius  
Operations Leader of the Finnish Peace Association  

Malin Nilsson  
Secretary-General International Women’s Association for Peace and Freedom, IKFF, Sweden  

Sirkku Järvelä  
Chairwoman Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, WILPF, Finland  

Lotta Sjöström Becker  
Secretary General 

This opinion piece was first published on 12 May 2022 on the website of the media Svenska Dagbladet – read the original.

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WILPF Sweden and WILPF Finland

WILPF Finland was founded in 1926 by Maikki Friberg, the long-term president of the Finnish Feminist Association Unioni. Nowadays, Finland is considered a model of equality and social progress. WILPF Sweden was founded in 1919 and is known in Swedish as Internationella Kvinnoförbundet för Fred och Frihet (IKFF). WILPF Sweden is involved in a variety of different projects focused on disarmament, conflict prevention, and the Women, Peace, and Security agenda through lobbying, information, and advocacy.

Melissa Torres

VICE-PRESIDENT

Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani

VICE-PRESIDENT

Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo

PRESIDENT

Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

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WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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Demilitarisation

WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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