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
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.
Chairwoman of the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Association
Operations Leader of the Finnish Peace Association
Secretary-General International Women’s Association for Peace and Freedom, IKFF, Sweden
Chairwoman Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, WILPF, Finland
Lotta Sjöström Becker
This opinion piece was first published on 12 May 2022 on the website of the media Svenska Dagbladet – read the original.