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Swedish Neutrality

The country has a history of neutrality stretching back to the early part of the 19th century, so Sweden is not traditionally viewed as a military nation. Sweden has not been militarily occupied since 1523 and has not been at war since 1814. During the 17th entury, Sweden was a major military power in Europe, and for a time controlled Finland and Norway.

During the 17th century, the Swedish empire consisted of present day Sweden, and parts of Denmark, Finland, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, and northern Germany. Sweden fought wars against such powers as Denmark, Poland, and Russia. Her role in the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) was significant, helping determine the political and religious balance of power in Europe that prevails to this day. Sweden invaded Russia in 1700, and came close to defeating the Russians. However, the forces of Peter the Great overcame the Swedes in 1709, and thereafter Sweden's power declined, as one by one of her external conquests slipped away. In 1809, Sweden was forced to cede Finland to Russia.

Beginning in 1810 King Karl XIV Johan altered the foreign policy stance of Sweden from one of military engagement to a policy of neutrality that exists to this day. Though officially neutral in both World Wars I and II, Sweden's neutrality in World War II was stretched on several occasions.

When the Soviet Union invaded nearby Finland, many Swedes volunteered to fight for Finland. At thousands of mass meetings all over Sweden, the cry was: "Finland's cause is ours!" Sweden also gave extensive material aid to Finland. However, no Swedish troops were directly involved in the conflict. And when the allies, particularly Britain, wanted to send troops through Sweden to aid Finland in March, 1940, Sweden refused.

Germany's attack on Denmark and Norway placed Sweden in a difficult situation. Germany soon demanded to move military transports over Swedish territory to attack the defenders of Norway. These demands were turned down in April and May of 1940, with only Red Cross transports to northern Norway being permitted transit. However, in June 1940, the Swedes felt constrained to allow the transit of German military equipment and personnel on leave between Norway and Germany, via Sweden. The Government and High Command agreed that a hopeless war with Germany would be unavoidable if the demands were refused. One more major concession was yet to be demanded. In connection with the German attackon Russia in June 1941, the transfer of a fully equipped German infantry division under the command of General Engelbrecht from Norway to Finland over Swedish territory was permitted. Other such requests were refused. Sweden continued to trade with Germany during the war, but after the battle of Stalingrad, Sweden cut back exports of iron ore to Germany. During the war some restrictions were placed on the press to placate the Germans.

The present policy of Swedish neutrality is not laid down in the Constitution or required by any international agreement. Rather, it is a policy which Sweden itself has chosen to pursue, based on the conviction that neutrality is the best possible guarantee of Sweden's being able to avoid involvement in a future war. This policy is backed by a relatively strong national defense designed to deter or prevent the belligerents in any military conflict from trying to occupy or use Swedish territory.

Under the new EU Treaty, member states are expected to assume shared responsibility for Europe's security. The Riksdag [The Swedish Parliament] has ratified the Treaty of Lisbon, including Article 47.2 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), and the solidarity clause - Article 222 in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). The Government endorsed the Defence Commission's declaration of solidarity, which includes EU member states, Norway and Iceland.

By 2009 the Swedish Liberal Party was demanding that Sweden become a full member of NATO and argued that an open debate over the issue was needed. The Liberal Party is established as the strongest advocate of full NATO membership for Sweden. In March 2009 the party's foreign policy spokesperson Birgitta Ohlsson submitted a dissenting opinion to the parliamentary defence committee which presents the party's strongest position yet in favor of Sweden joining the transatlantic military alliance.

The Social Democrats gained power in Sweden during the general election in September 2014, following eight years of conservative rule. Prime Minister Stefan Lofven promised to adjust Sweden’s foreign policy, which would include the country giving up on its aspirations to join NATO.

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