In connection with the Social Democrats’ announcement that they have changed their position on the issue of Swedish NATO membership, Swedish Doctors Against Nuclear Weapons make clear demands to ensure that Sweden remains nuclear-weapon-free – both territorially and in policy.
A Swedish entry into NATO, which itself classifies itself as a nuclear weapons alliance, places great demands on Sweden to point out its conditions, in order to distance itself from nuclear weapons as a member of the alliance.
First and foremost, Sweden should immediately accede to the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The Convention, which entered into force in January 2021, entails a comprehensive ban on nuclear weapons in many aspects; use, threats of use, possession, production, testing, stationing and to assist, encourage or persuade other states to the prohibited activities. By joining Sweden to the Convention, many of the concerns that civil society, the general public, politicians and experts have drawn attention to in the debate on Swedish NATO membership are effectively overcome. This can be a way to also appease the opposition that exists against NATO membership in Sweden and bridge the existing concerns. Sweden must also reserve the right to not stand behind NATO’s statements criticizing the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. In addition to accession to the Treaty, the following aspects should be considered and implemented, through legislation, formal policy, etc.
In NATO’s Nuclear Planning Group, extensive and confidential discussions take place (not even in NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly where group discussions are held), on mainly operational discussions regarding nuclear weapons. This is where exercises with nuclear weapons are planned, possible planning of the use of nuclear weapons and the alliance’s nuclear weapons policy are discussed and set. The only NATO state outside the Nuclear Planning Group is France. It certainly shows that it is possible to stand outside the group, nothing in the North Atlantic Treaty on which the alliance rests says that one must be involved, but it is worth noting that France also has its own nuclear weapons.
It should be carefully considered whether Sweden should be part of the Nuclear Planning Group or not. This has never been tried before, but an important requirement is that Sweden should never be involved in planning, preparing or practicing before using nuclear weapons. Whether this can be combined with membership in the Nuclear Planning Group must be investigated before joining the group takes place.
Another important aspect that has been discussed extensively is nuclear weapons on Swedish territory. In order for NATO or the USA (it is the USA and not NATO that has nuclear weapons deployed in 5 NATO countries) to be allowed to deploy nuclear weapons in Sweden, it is required that Sweden approves this. However, we believe that in order to ensure that this will not happen, even over time, Sweden should give priority to enacting a national law that prohibits the import of nuclear weapons on Swedish territory in all respects and in all situations. This has been driven by civil society and through motions in the Riksdag for several years and has now become even more important in connection with the rapid NATO debate that has arisen. Finland already has such a law in place, as do Spain and Lithuania. Several Social Democratic side unions, the Left Party and the Green Party are now pushing this issue.
The proposal for legislation against the introduction of nuclear weapons on Swedish territory has been continuously rejected, for example in the bill on a memorandum of understanding with NATO in 2015 “Nuclear weapons may not be placed on Swedish territory. Sweden has for decades clearly marked this to the outside world. The Swedish position of not acquiring nuclear weapons and of not allowing such weapons to be placed on Swedish territory or carried by visiting foreign forces during visits has been unequivocally conveyed in various contexts and forums, e.g. through speeches at the UN General Assembly. A visiting state is obliged under international law to comply with the conditions that Sweden sets for the visit. This follows the principle of sovereignty under international law. This has since been repeated in every proposal or initiative to start a legislative process.
We have tried to derive the speech in the UN that is mentioned in order to find out what was said, when and by whom. The only reference we have received from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is an explanation of vote for a resolution in the First Committee of the UN General Assembly in 1981 just after the then Soviet Union’s violation of Sweden’s territorial border with the grounding of the Soviet submarine U 137 in the Karlskrona archipelago. It is clear that a more modern statement than from 1981 is needed, and also supplemented with legislation.
Last but not least, we believe that Sweden must reserve the right not to support NATO’s statements that as long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will be a nuclear alliance, as expressed, for example, in NATO’s strategic concept from 2010. This strategic concept is a political document and is not automatically legally binding on all Member States. One of Sweden’s most important tasks as a NATO member must be to get the alliance to not threaten to use nuclear weapons (even as a first-strike capability) and to persuade the alliance to end its dependence on nuclear weapons and work for the disarmament of all nuclear weapons.
We have an interesting time ahead of us, we see how parties and debaters are already beginning to position themselves with their demands for membership and now it is of the utmost importance that we who want to work for a nuclear-weapon-free membership clarify our demands and proposals on how this should be done. We see that our points with demands that we made in the debate in Sweden have had an impact on several political parties and side unions and we assume that the Riksdag takes many of them into account and ensures that Sweden continues to be a nuclear-weapon-free country, as a party to the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.