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Sweden - Russia Relations

Sweden is wary of Russia but recognizes the commercial, political, energy and environmental ties that bind each to the other. Sweden's relations with Russia have been generally pragmatic since the end of the Cold War. Sweden seeks to engage Moscow, but the reemergence of Russia's Cold War-style behavior has caused Sweden to sharpen its tone. Sweden was one of the first nations to publicly condemn Russia's violation of Georgian territorial sovereignty in 2008. The government's security policy has also changed to reflect increasing concern over a belligerent Russia, given Sweden's geographical proximity and brotherly concern for the Baltics and Finland. Sweden publicly advocates for Russia to partake in European policy, but in private it closely monitors Russian activity.

Discussion of EU-Russia relations occur within the framework of the four policy areas or "common spaces" (economics and environment; freedom, security, and justice; external security; and research and education, including cultural aspects) and the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA). The framework for EU-Russia discussions is very formalized, leaving the Swedes little room for influence.

One of Sweden's quiet success stories in 2009 was the launching of the Eastern Partnership (EaP). The EaP seeks to improve the EU's bilateral relationships with six former Soviet states (Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia), while encouraging democratic reforms and economic liberalization. Bilateral programs under EaP offer qualifying countries the possibility of deep free trade agreements, energy sector development, gradual easing of visa restrictions, and cooperation on border control. Russia remains suspicious of the EaP, claiming that the six countries fall within a presumed Russian geo-political "sphere of influence," which neither the U.S. nor the EU accepts. Once started, the EaP will pump approximately 800 million Euros annually into their economies, growing to over 1.3 billion Euros by 2013.

In 2008 Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt expressed concern over Russia's "authoritarian direction" and strongly criticized "Russia's aggression against Georgia" -- "an unacceptable violation of the territorial integrity of another state," as well as "a blow to the international law that is the very basis of peaceful and stable relations between states." The Government remained critical in 2009, asserting in its defense bill that Moscow had ambitions to regain its former position as a superpower and highlighting concerns over developments in the Russian armed forces. "The Georgia War demonstrated that the Russian threshold for using military violence in its neighboring region was reduced." The Government acknowledged that Russia had vital interests in Belarus, Ukraine, the Barents Sea and the Arctic, but maintained that "these regions must be considered to be part of the larger Swedish sphere of interest" as well.

On 12 August 2008 independent liberal Stockholm morning daily "Dagens Nyheter" editorialized on "Back in the USSR" stating that, "The Russian bombings of the Georgian capital Tbilisi and Gori in central Georgia seem to indicate that the Kremlin's ambitions extend beyond the separatist regions South Ossetia and Abkhazia. It is becoming more and more evident that Russian ambitions may be to dethrone the Georgian President, the young U.S.-educated lawyer Mikhail Sakhasvili .... The new Czarist Empire does not hesitate to use military force to put pressure on former Soviet republics that are friendly to the West. But the mightiest weapon for the Kremlin is not tanks but rather the dependence on oil...That is one of the main reasons why the EU is tiptoeing around Russia.... "

On 12 August 2008 the conservative Stockholm morning daily "Svenska Dagbladet" in an editorial headlined "History Has Not Ended," said: "Despite the last decades arms reductions here (in Sweden) eternal peace has not materialized in our immediate surroundings.... The war in Georgia contains all the elements, which the realists have warned of. Russia - a country that cannot tolerate that a neighboring country has ambitions to get closer to the West. A state in disintegration where the leadership take panicky actions. Oil- and gas pipelines that have a potential for energy political blackmail. And, not least, an incredibly short distance from going from argument to war...."

On 12 August 2008, South Sweden's major liberal daily, Malmo-based "Sydsvenskan" opined, "Georgia can hardly be described as a democratic model state and perhaps there were underrated risks involved in the actions last week against the Ossetia separatists. But Russia's readiness to quickly resort to the use of military force and its obvious intention to push it too far, is to the international community the most concerning and alarming aspect.... "

On 17 February 2010, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt presented the Government's annual Foreign Policy Statement to the Parliament. On Russia, Bildt abandoned his usual harsh criticism, saying only that "Sweden welcomes the Russian President's statements on the importance of a functioning rule of law and an extensive modernization of Russian society" and expressing hope that Russia will become a member of the WTO.

The Statement of Government Policy presented by Mrs Margot Wallström, Minister for Foreign Affairs, in the Parliamentary Debate on Foreign Affairs, Wednesday, 24 February 2016, : "Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea and military presence in eastern Ukraine constitute flagrant breaches of international law. This is the greatest challenge to the European security order since the end of the Cold War. The sanctions against Russia must remain in place until the terms of the Minsk agreements are met. Ukraine must be allowed to regain control over its internationally recognised borders. It is important to help ensure a strong, democratic and stable Ukraine. Sweden supports the Ukrainian Government's reform work both bilaterally and through the EU."

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Page last modified: 30-06-2021 12:04:37 ZULU