NATO PfP - Partnership for Peace program in 1994 and EU - European Union in 1995.
By tradition Sweden has a long tradition taking part in UN-led Peace Keeping missions.
Our contribution to the United Nations started as early as 1948 when Military Observers were sent to the Middle East. The first Swedish battalion under UN-flag was deployed in Gaza 1956.
The first Peace Enforcing mission was in Congo 1960-1964. This was also the first official engagement for the Swedish Air Force, deploying a squadron of Saab J 29 "Flying Barrel". (The first unofficial engagement for the SwAF was during the war between Finland and the Soviet Union in 1940 where Fighter Wing 19, a "volunteer" wing of Swedish pilots and technicians, fought for Finland using Swedish Air Force surplus aircraft that was given to Finland as a gift from the Swedish government.
After the end of the Cold War at the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the independence of the Baltic States in 1991, the Swedish military command was a bit taken by surprise. The army was focusing more and more on international missions and their material standards were not very good compared to the Navy and the Air Force. The supreme commander decided together with the politicians that there was a unique opportunity to raise the standards of the army units. This was unofficially named the "The Strategic Time-Out". Unfortunately no-one decided when this time-out was supposed to end.
The first true test of the Swedish capability to perform "modern" Peace Keeping/Peace Enforcing missions came during the Bosnian War 1992-95. (I recommend Morgonsurs stories from that war). In 1995 the Swedish UN battalion was transfered to NATO-command, the blue UN berets was replaced by brown and the unit insignia was changed to NATO IFOR. Strangely, this was not a very big issue in the political debate even though the communist party did not like the connection to NATO and therefore also to USA. This was the year when Swedish policy on taking part in NATO-missions truly changed.
Sweden continued to take part in NATO-led missions in Kosovo 1999 - today and Afghanistan 2001 - today and lately in Libya where the Air Force is taking part with combat aircraft for the first time since the Congo War (not taking into account cargo aircraft and helicopters).
During these years the Swedish national defence was torn down into pieces. The Air Force was drastically reduced to today 6 squadrons and the Navy is almost non-existing. Worst of all was that the war-time bases was closed down. The Swedish strategy of defending the country without relying on outside help was no more. After the cold war historians have discovered that there was preparations made to get help from NATO if there was ever a war with the Soviet Union. However this was not trained in any way, so the help would have been quite ineffective.
In 2010 the last brick of the Swedish national defence was torn down when the conscript system was canceled. Nowadays boys and girls only do their military service on a voluntarily basis. The capability of the armed resistance in Sweden has therefore been cut down from 700.000 to 60.000 (including the 30.000 strong home-guard).
Sweden has signed the Treaty of Lisbon in 2008. After this date the European Union is a legal body and the work for a common foreign, security and defence policy has started.
The treaty foresees that the European Security and Defence Policy will lead to a common defence agreement for the EU when the European Council resolves unanimously to do so, and provided that all member states give their approval through their usual constitutional procedures. Additionally, the area of defence has become available to enhanced co-operation, potentially allowing for a defence integration that excludes member states with policies of neutrality. Countries with significant military capabilities are envisioned to form a Permanent Structured Cooperation in Defence.
The challenge with this security policy is that it is in writing close to NATO Article 5. Most countries in Europe are NATO-members and has no issues with this. But, Sweden has agreed upon helping NATO-countries and get helped by NATO-countries without being full member of NATO! The military command of the EU, EUMC has very little power compared to NATO and must rely on NATO assets and command structures. A EU-led mission will in all practicalities be a NATO-led mission.
To top all of this Sweden has in 2008 issued a one-way "Declaration of Solidarity".
Sweden would not stand passive if a neighbour is threatened or attacked. We expect others not to stand passive if Sweden is threatened. We must be able both to provide and receive support, with relevant capabilities, also of a military nature.
In practicality most of Sweden´s neighbors are NATO-members (excluding only Finland and Russia). The declaration of solidarity can result in Sweden being forced into a conflict in the Baltic region taking the NATO-side. This will most likely result in a conflict with our biggest neighbor, Russia.
But, even taken into consideration all these small steps towards NATO membership the Swedish politicians refuse to debate whether to request for full membership or not. According to polls the Swedish citizens are against a NATO-membership. The Swedish minister of defence, Mr Tolgfors, states that "there are a de factor solidarity between European countries". But in the same article he also reflects upon the fact that Sweden is doing more for NATO than most NATO-countries. Due to bad economy many European countries (and NATO-members) are not able to take part in Libya. Will they be able to support Sweden or other countries in the future? If the economy is so bad that some countries can´t fulfill their NATO-obligations, then EU military issues will most likely be put on hold.
The ironic thing is that during the Cold War Sweden needed NATO for support, but didn´t train this. Sweden couldn´t be member of NATO due to the official neutrality and couldn´t rely for the help to come. In order to be able to defend the country until NATO decided to help, Sweden had a strong national defence. After the Cold War, Sweden supports NATO and is well trained to both help and receive help from NATO. The capability to defend Sweden is lower than ever and Sweden therefore rely more than ever on NATO-support, but there is still no NATO-membership to guarantee this.
Sweden´s political struggle to admit the NATO-connection has led to very strange decisions regarding the continued mission in Libya. The Air Force unit which is in high demand from NATO is being reduced by three aircraft, but the mission activity will increase. Instead Sweden is planning to send a naval unit and a psy-ops unit that NATO has very low need of. A typical Swedish "lagom" compromise. No-one is happy with the result, but no-one is also angry. All to keep the balance between a minority government and a opposition with the communist party sometimes taking sides with the right-wing nationalist Swedish Democracy party. Political agreements often result in strange bed-mates.
But maybe the politicians are just doing what the Swedish voters want? Both national and international missions. Both keeping the quantity and quality of material. Keep the old type of defence capabilities and building up new units for information warfare. All within a shrinking budget for the Department of Defence. The Minister of Finance, Mr Borg, has more to say about the future of the Swedish Armed Forces then the Minister of Defence. The money does not cover the needs of the armed forces, but the politicians can´t acknowledge the need of NATO-membership due to the low interest of NATO-membership by the Swedish voters.
To quote Mother Teresa:
"We, the unwilling, led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much, for so long, with so little, we are now qualified to do anything with nothing."