The Values of Europe: A view from Sweden

Her Excellency Mikaela Kumlin Granit, Swedish Ambassador to the United Kingdom, explains why Sweden has decided to abandon more than 200 years of non-alignment to join NATO and underlines the importance of continued democratic unity and support for Ukraine.

It is difficult to discuss European values today without making the Russian aggression against Ukraine the starting point for my introduction. I would like to raise four points on what implications it has, and will have, for us.

First, we will have to remind ourselves that February 24th was a turning point. By actively choosing to launch a brutal invasion, Russia is not only displaying a behaviour belonging to another century, Russia’s actions also grossly violate international law and the principles of the UN Charter. Such actions pose a direct challenge to the rule-based international order, undermines European and global peace and security developed since the end of the second World War.

However, Russian intentions were made clear much earlier, not least before Christmas. President Putin proposed drastic changes to the European Security Order, trying to limit the right of nations to choose their own national security policy posture.

Also problematic is the brutality, the systematic and structural form of the aggression and the breaches of international law. All the while completely disregarding other consequences, such as the refugee situation and the looming food crisis.

An awakening for Europe

The good news is that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has become a European earthquake – an awakening. It has become absolutely clear that it is not about Ukraine alone, but about all of us. Our values and freedoms, that constantly need to be defended.

This explains why we have seen an unprecedented unity emerge – a transatlantic unity, a unity in the EU, in Europe including between the EU and the UK. This also explains why the European Union acted quick and tough. And it explains why 141 countries voted in the UN General Assembly to condemn the war and demand the withdrawal all of Russia’s military forces.

Finally, it explains why Sweden, for the first time since 1939, decided to support a foreign army with both lethal and non-lethal weapons, and decided to abandon more than 200 years of conducted policy of non-alignment and applied for membership to NATO together with Finland.

For Sweden these are historic steps. The logic being that Russia’s actions have far-reaching and long-lasting consequences for the entire Euro-Atlantic area.
The boundaries of NATOs article 5 were made abundantly clear: partners are supported, and allies are defended.

A NATO membership would raise the threshold and increase security for Sweden and the stability in northern Europe, including the Baltic region and for our Baltic partners. It should also be mentioned that Finland’s choice had an important impact of our decision. Years of close cooperation with NATO has prepared us well. We will be security providers and a responsible contributing member, bringing advanced capabilities of the marine and air force, knowledge of winter warfare to the table. But maybe most importantly, we feel that we have a responsibility to sit at the table and contribute to the development and protection of the European security order and our common values.

What was it that made this historic decision possible? I believe the answer to that question resides in a simple but crucial principle enshrined in the UN charter. That each country is sovereign and equal. And from that follows the right of self-determination when it comes to security policy choices. But in recent time, this freedom has been seriously undermined.

“We need to show that democracies are not less patient than autocracies”

To conclude, where do we go from here? Not only Sweden but all of us? First of all, we need to continue to act together. We need to show that democracies are not less patient than autocracies. Also, we need to work hard to explain why Russia’s actions is of global significance, and to counter false narratives.

We need to keep the attention to what is happening and keep on supporting Ukraine. And we must be ready to shoulder the costs that comes from safeguarding them and the important principles. It is not only the right thing to do, but our only alternative.

In this new era that we have entered, I would argue that we not only can but must prioritise the defence of our common values and we do that best today by making sure that Ukraine succeeds.

Her Excellency Mikaela Kumlin Granit is Swedish Ambassador to the United Kingdom.

This blog is based on remarks made by the Ambassador at a UCL roundtable on the values of Europe, which took place as part of Quo Vadis, a four day festival convened by the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, co-hosted by the UCL Institute of Advanced Studies and supported by the UCL European Institute.

A recording of the full event is available here.

The views expressed in this post are those of the author, and not of the UCL European Institute, nor of UCL.

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