Foreign Policy

What does it mean that Sweden is "non-aligned"

8:33 min

As Swedish warplanes have gone abroad for the first time since the Congo crisis almost 50 years ago, and Swedish troops are placed under Nato command not just in Libya, but also in a volatile Afghanistan, some people wonder what happened to the Swedish neutrality and position as a non-aligned country.

But Sweden stopped calling itself neutral quite some time ago. And what it means to be non-aligned - that depends on who you ask.

The Swedish neutrality during the Second World War was after the war replaced by a policy that said Sweden would be "non-aligned in peacetime, aiming to be neutral in war". This was the official doctrine all through the cold war.

But in 1992, after the Berlin wall had come down - it was changed to the vaguer phrase "militarily non-aligned, aiming for the possibility to be neutral in case of war".

But with the membership in the European Union in 1995, things really started to change, and in 2002 the word "neutrality" was dropped, kept only as a reference that it had "served us well" in the past. Now Sweden was "only" militarily non-aligned - full stop.

But with time, that as well has become qualified. Almost 2 years ago, the Swedish parliament adopted the EU's "declaration of solidarity" which stated that Sweden "would not remain passive" if another EU country was attacked.

These days Sweden has no qualms about putting its troops under Nato command, as it does in Afghanistan or now, guarding the no-fly zone over Libya. The line that so far has not been crossed is that Sweden always demands a UN resolution to back it up. But try to find out what Sweden's status as non-aligned means today, and you'll find a wide range of explanations from the political parties.

To listen to some of the full report, click on the link above.