MADRID — Russia’s reaction so far has been “rather muted” to Sweden getting the green light to join NATO, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said on Wednesday. But her country is ready if Moscow retaliates with cyberattacks or other aggressive measures, she added.
“Russia’s response has been pretty muted, which I think makes a lot of sense,” Andersson said in an interview with POLITICO the morning after Sweden and neighboring Finland struck a historic deal to join the EU. NATO. “Russia knows that we have long been a NATO partner, that we have been cooperating closely with NATO for many years. So maybe they don’t see it as such a big step.
“But of course,” she added, “we have stepped up our preparation for [a] potential Russian response, for example, in cyber.
In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Sweden and Finland abandoned decades of non-alignment and sought NATO membership – perhaps the clearest indication that war of Russian President Vladimir Putin backfired. Putin claimed his invasion of Ukraine was partly intended to contain NATO and prevent further expansion of the US-led military alliance.
Turkey had blocked the Nordic countries from joining the alliance, but Ankara relented on Tuesday night at the start of a summit of NATO leaders in Madrid. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg hailed the agreement as a “historic decision.”
In the interview, Andersson used similar language to describe the developments. “Yesterday was a historic day for Sweden and for NATO,” she said. “My ambition is that will not only increase security in Sweden and Finland, but in NATO as a whole.
Sweden and Finland have long been NATO partner nations, and their relatively advanced militaries are already highly interoperable with those of other allies.
But with Sweden and Finland as allies, NATO will instantly gain vastly expanded cold-weather combat capabilities. These capabilities will be useful in responding to Russian threats, particularly in the Arctic, which is seen as an increasingly competitive and important strategic theater.
Andersson said there was broad consensus on the point in March when she traveled to Norway to observe Operation Cold Response, a NATO training exercise, and to speak with military personnel. .
“They all said that it was very good for soldiers from some countries where there is not so much snow to train in northern Norway because they were not used to the conditions”, a- she declared. “So now there will be two more allies used to ice, snow and very cold weather – minus 40 degrees.”
Andersson said Sweden and Finland were not just joining NATO to protect themselves, but to increase the protection of other allied countries.
“Because being a member of NATO is something that, of course, would increase security in Sweden and then in Finland, but we have the ambition to be security providers for NATO as a whole, and for all NATO countries,” she said. “We are right now in the midst of the greatest buildup of our army, our defense since the 1950s.”
She added: “We are strong on the water, under the water and in the sky. And with Finland, they are very strong on the ground, I think that together we will really provide more security to NATO.