Scandinavian defense union

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This article is part of the
Scandinavia series
Scandinavian Mountains
Scandinavian Peninsula
Scandinavian languages
Viking Age
Varangian
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Denmark-Norway
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Defense union
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History of Sweden

A Scandinavian defense union that would include Sweden, Norway and Denmark was planned between the three countries after World War II. Denmark and Norway had been occupied by Germany between 1940 and 1945, while Sweden, having escaped the horrors of occupation it had, still felt the effects of the war. All three countries were unanimous that a united defense would be of utmost importance to prevent a repetition of the terrors that a new war would bring.

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The position of Finland

Finland which had fought two wars with the Soviet Union, had close relations with the Scandinavian countries but had after losing the Continuation War entered into a state of dependence to its eastern neighbour. The political position of Finland following World War II was not very different from those countries in the Eastern bloc that would eventually end up behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War. Due to this Finland could not be included in any discussions of military cooperation.

Norway and Denmark join NATO

The three Scandinavian countries would if they had entered into an alliance, have remained separate sovereign countries but acted as a single bloc in foreign policy and security issues. The proposed union was being discussed by a joint Scandinavian committee during the winter of 1948-1949, but the Cold War tension between the United States and the Soviet Union, and preparations for a western alliance that would result in the North Atlantic Treaty proved that the efforts were in vain. When it became known that the western alliance would not be able to supply the Scandinavian countries with armaments before meeting their own pressing needs, this issue ultimately proved to be the turning point for Norway, which resigned from the talks. Denmark was still willing to enter into an alliance with Sweden, but the Swedes saw few advantages in this and the proposal fell. Norway and Denmark subsequently became signatory parties of the North Atlantic Treaty and members of NATO.

The basis of Swedish neutrality

Sweden chose not to join NATO, despite a fierce debate on the issue. One of the strongest proponents was Hebert Tingsten, editor-in-chief of Dagens Nyheter, the largest newspaper in Sweden, who used the editorial to argue why Sweden should join. He found a great opponent in the foreign minister of the time Östen Undén, who argued that Sweden should stay non-aligned and remain neutral in case of war. An aspect of this which is often ignored is the position of Finland. Had Sweden opted to join NATO, it seems likely that the Soviet Union would have been compelled to secure a more firm hold over Finland, which would have locked the country behind the iron curtain and created a frontline between NATO and the Warsaw Pact straight through the Baltic Sea. It may even seem odd that Finland, which prior to 1917 had been a part of the Russian Empire, unlike its neighbours the Baltic states had been left on the outside not only of the Soviet Union but also outside the Soviet bloc and the iron curtain. The position of Sweden as a member of the western world was not in doubt, but it could not, based on the choices it had made on foreign policy, join the western military alliance, and hanging those choices would likely prohibit the people of Finland, which up to the 19th century had been a part of Sweden, to enjoy democracy and human rights on the terms that they were defined in the west.

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