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About NATO membership

NATO is an intergovernmental military alliance. Its purpose is to guarantee the freedom and security of its members through political and military means.

The North Atlantic Treaty serves as the legal foundation of NATO. Signed by all member states, the treaty comprises 14 articles. Several of these articles are fundamental to the alliance, namely articles 1, 3, and 5.

  • Peaceful resolution of conflicts – article 1
    According to article 1, NATO will always pursue peaceful conflict resolution. The alliance strives for peace in Europe and North America, based on the member states’ shared principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law.
  • Resilience and collective defence – article 3
    Article 3 declares that all NATO member states must be able to defend themselves and contribute to the collective defence of the alliance. This includes the capacity to both resist an armed attack, and to build a resilient society.
  • One for all, and all for one – article 5
    Article 5 is perhaps the most well-known. It can be described as the core of the alliance: an armed attack against one or more member states is to be considered an attack against all of them.

How is NATO governed?

NATO is an intergovernmental organisation in which members make decisions collectively. Member states must reach consensus – meaning they all agree – before any decision is made.

The North Atlantic Council is the primary decision-making body within NATO. It consists of the NATO ambassadors from each member state. The council is led by the Secretary General of NATO.

Learn more about NATO’s organisation on the NATO website

Sweden's role in NATO

As a member of NATO, Sweden will be included in the collective defence guarantees and is bound by the obligations upon which the alliance was founded. Sweden is also entitled to one vote when the alliance makes decisions. Further, membership strengthens ties with fellow member states. All NATO members contribute military and civil resources to the collective defence.

The role of civil preparedness in NATO

Resilient societies are a vital to NATO’s defence structure. Sweden’s efforts to establish its ”total defence” is very much in line with NATO guidelines. As a NATO member, Sweden will continue to bolster its civil preparedness, sharpening its focus on integrating processes together with NATO.

Guidelines for civil preparedness on the NATO website

Military cooperation in NATO

NATO plans its defence collectively, and member states hold joint military exercises to further their preparedness in case of war. At a tactical level, Sweden’s military defence is already aligned with NATO. As a member, the greatest difference will be seen at the strategic level; Sweden will take part in NATO’s decision-making and assume a larger role in its presence around northern Europe.

Stronger together

Being a part of NATO makes Sweden stronger, both from a military and a civil preparedness standpoint. Of course, membership includes security guarantees; Sweden can receive military support from 31 other countries in case of war. In addition, Sweden can partake in larger and more complex military exercises, and gain access to the expertise of NATO and its member states to further develop its national civil preparedness.

How will NATO affect me?

NATO membership will not place any new requirements on you as an individual. Swedish citizens will still be required to comply with the country’s “total defence duty”, as codified in Swedish law.

For most people, Sweden’s NATO membership will have no material impact. However, one might observe joint military exercises held in Sweden.

Essential workers and public services may be affected by Sweden’s increased focus on civil preparedness. If you work in the Swedish Armed Forces, membership in NATO could mean being stationed overseas.

Will membership in NATO affect Sweden’s total defence duty?

No. NATO membership will not affect the foundations of our military service, civil defence duty, and essential workers duty. Any changes must be preceded by an exhaustive political process. Sweden decides who and how many are required to undergo basic training for military service – and where that training is to be conducted.

Those who are not called up to undergo basic military training – or part of the essential workers duty – still play a vital role in Sweden’s total defence. Every citizen between the ages of 16 and 70 may be called upon to aid society in different ways during a crisis or war, for example, as part of a voluntary defence organisation. This is known as civil defence duty and all citizens are registered from the year you turn 16. All defence structures and processes are created in accordance with Swedish law and are not affected by NATO membership.

Latest reviewed: 13 March 2024

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