MADRID – Russia’s reaction so far has been “quite mild” against Sweden being given the green light to join NATO, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said on Wednesday. But her country is ready if Moscow takes revenge with cyber attacks or other aggressive measures, she added.
“The reaction from Russia has been quite mild, which I think makes a lot of sense,” Andersson said in an interview with POLITICO the morning after Sweden and neighboring Finland reached a historic agreement to join NATO. “Russia knows that we have been a partner of NATO for a long time, that we have worked closely with NATO for many years. So they may not see this as such a big step. ”
“But of course,” she added, “we have increased our preparedness for [a] potential responses from Russia, for example with regard to cyber. ”
In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Sweden and Finland abandoned decades of freedom of alliance and applied for NATO membership – perhaps the clearest indication that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war had struck back. Putin claimed that his invasion of Ukraine was partly intended to restrict NATO and prevent further expansion of the US-led military alliance.
Turkey had blocked the Nordic countries from joining the alliance, but Ankara surrendered on Tuesday night at the start of a NATO leadership meeting in Madrid. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg hailed the agreement as a “historical decision. ”
In the interview, Andersson used a similar language to describe the development. “This was a historic day for Sweden and for NATO yesterday,” she said. “My ambition is that it will not only increase security in Sweden and Finland, but in NATO as a whole. ”
Sweden and Finland have long been partner nations with NATO, and their relatively advanced military is already very interoperable with other allied nations.
But with Sweden and Finland as allies, NATO will immediately have enormously expanded military capabilities in cold weather. These capabilities will be useful in responding to threats from Russia – especially in the Arctic, which is seen as an increasingly competitive and important strategic theater.
Andersson said that there was broad agreement on this point in March when she visited Norway to observe Operation Cold Responsea NATO exercise, and talking to military personnel.
“They all said that it was very good for soldiers from certain countries where there is not much snow to practice in the northern part of Norway because they were not used to the conditions,” she said. “So now there will be two other allies accustomed to ice, snow and very cold weather – minus 40 degrees.”
Andersson said that Sweden and Finland not only joined NATO to protect themselves but to increase protection for other allied countries.
“Because a member of NATO is something that would naturally increase security in Sweden and then in Finland, but we have the ambition that we will be security suppliers to NATO as a whole and to all NATO countries,” she said. “We are right now in the middle of the largest build-up of our military, our defense since the 1950s.”
She added: “We are strong on the water, underwater and in the sky. And together with Finland, they are very strong on the ground, I think together we will really give NATO more security.”