Sweden's road to NATO

Published

On 16 May 2022 the Government, with broad support in the Riksdag, decided to apply for NATO membership. Information about the Government’s work in relation to Sweden’s application for NATO membership is gathered here.

  • Jens Stoltenberg and the foreign affairs ministers of Sweden and Finland standing on a podium.

    On 5 July 2022, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg held a press conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, together with the foreign affairs ministers of Sweden and Finland. Following the press conference all NATO member states signed the Accession Protocols for Sweden and Finland, paving the way for Sweden’s and Finland’s accession to NATO.

    Photo: NATO

  • NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenber and Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson

    On 13 June, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson received NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

    Photo: Magnus Liljegren/Governments Offices

  • Jens Stoltenberg receiving the NATO membership application from  the Swedish ambassador while the Finnish ambassador is watching.

    On 18 May, Sweden's request for NATO membership was presented to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (in the middle) by Ambassador Axel Wernhoff (right). At the same time Ambassador Klaus Korhonen (left) presented Finland's request for NATO membership.

    Photo: NATO

  • Ann Linde sitting in front of a desk with pen and paper.

    On 17 May, Minister for Foreign Affairs Ann Linde signed Sweden’s formal request for NATO membership.

    Photo: Frida Drake/Ministry for Foreign Affairs

  • Members of the working group standing on a podium  in front of the press.

    On 13 May, the working group set up by the Government to deliberate on the changed security environment following Russia’s aggression against Ukraine delivered the results of the deliberations at a press conference.

    Photo: Frida Drake/Ministry for Foreign Affairs

Sweden’s relationship with NATO up to the decision to apply for membership

  • In 1994, Sweden joined the Partnership for Peace (PfP). The aim of the PfP was to build trust between NATO and other states in Europe and the former Soviet Union, and also to improve partner countries’ cooperation with NATO. In 1997, Sweden became a member of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, a forum for political dialogue that complemented the practical cooperation within the PfP.

  • Since the 1990s, the Swedish Armed Forces has increased its ability to work with NATO by adopting the Organization’s standards, including English as the operational language. Through participation in NATO-led operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq, the Swedish Armed Forces has also adapted to NATO interoperability standards.

  • Since 2013, Sweden has – based on its own planning as a partner country – taken part in NATO’s most advanced collective defence exercises.

  • In 2014, Sweden and Finland became Enhanced Opportunities Partners to NATO in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea. This involves enhanced security dialogue concerning the Baltic Sea region and an intensified exchange of information between Sweden, Finland and NATO.

  • In 2016, Sweden signed a host country agreement with NATO. The host country agreement makes it easier for Sweden to receive support from NATO in response to a crisis or war, and it regulates what happens if foreign forces under NATO command are on Swedish territory. This has made it easier for Sweden to act as host country for joint international exercises.

Source: Swedish Defence Research Agency

Questions and answers

It is the Government’s assessment that NATO membership is the best way for Sweden to protect its security in light of the fundamentally changed security environment following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

On 16 March, the Government set up a working group to deliberate on the changed security environment following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The decision to apply for NATO membership was based in part on the working group’s report (Ds 2022:7).

Watch the press conference of 16 May here: Government decides that Sweden will apply for NATO membership – government.se

In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Government set up a working group comprising representatives of all the parties of the Riksdag to deliberate on the changed security environment. On 13 May the working group published its report, Deterioration of the security environment – implications for Sweden (Ds 2022:7).

The report states:

“For Sweden, the primary effect of NATO membership would be that Sweden would become part of NATO’s collective security and be covered by the security guarantees enshrined in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty.”

Read the full report here: Deterioration of the security environment- implications for Sweden – government.se

As a NATO member, Sweden would be expected to provide staff to NATO’s political and military structures. Moreover, Sweden would be expected to contribute approximately SEK 600–700 million per year to NATO’s common budget.

In addition, Sweden would be expected to meet the stated target that Allies spend a minimum of 2 per cent of GDP on defence. This is consistent with the decision already taken to increase Sweden’s defence investments to 2 per cent of GDP by 2028. NATO members are also aiming to allocate at least 20 per cent of defence spending for materiel and research and development.

The formal application process for NATO membership is as follows:

  1. The country (Sweden) notifies NATO that it wants to join.
  2. NATO invites the aspirant country to accession talks.
  3. NATO sets up a Membership Action Plan (MAP) to evaluate whether the country fulfils the criteria for membership. NATO may also decide not to invite a country to participate in the MAP.
  4. Accesion talks are held.
  5. The invitee country signs a letter of intent confirming its acceptance of the obligations and commitments of membership.
  6. The NATO countries approve and ratify the Accession Protocols in their national parliaments.
  7. The invitee country then ratifies the North Atlantic Treaty and becomes a NATO member.

Source: Swedish Defence Research Agency

5 July 2022: Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Norway

6 July 2022: Estonia, United Kingdom

7 July 2022: Albania

8 July 2022: Germany

12 July 2022: Netherlands, Luxembourg

13 July 2022: Bulgaria

14 July 2022: Latvia, Slovenia

15 July 2022: Croatia

20 July 2022: Lithuania, Poland

21 July 2022: Belgium, Romania

27 July 2022: North Macedonia

28 July 2022: Montenegro

2 August 2022: France

3 August 2022: Italy, United States

The timeline above indicates the date of ratification by NATO Allies. To take effect, ratification instruments must be deposited with the United States Government.

Read more about the ratification process: Finland & Sweden Accession | NATO PA (nato-pa.int)

The Government has appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs Ann Linde to lead the accession talks.

About NATO

NATO is an intergovernmental political and military alliance comprising 30 member states in Europe and North America with collective defence obligations and defence planning.

Deterioration of the security environment – implications for Sweden

On 16 March, the Government set up a working group to deliberate on the changed security environment following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The decision to apply for NATO membership was based in part on the working group’s report (Ds 2022:7).