Dear sisters and brothers in the Sweden FOR,
Our hearts break for you and your country. Sweden’s expected application to join NATO is a devastating blow for our shared global peace movement. Sweden’s 200 years of stated neutrality and military non-alignment have long offered a sign that nation-states can play a critical role as well.
We join the Sweden Fellowship of Reconciliation in appealing to Sweden (and Finland) to remain neutral, alongside Austria, Cyprus, Ireland, and Malta. The Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine is illegitimate and indefensible, but must be countered and resolved through negotiations and mediation – something Sweden is best placed to support if it remains neutral. President Vladimir Putin has made a giant miscalculation and the Russian war machine is overextended, beleaguered, and unable to manage an endless conflict. If a face-saving way out is not negotiated, it becomes more likely that Putin will resort to Russia’s arsenal of 6,257 nuclear warheads. In such a fearful instance, there is nothing that NATO can do to save Sweden or Europe.
SweFOR, upon its founding in 1919, carried further Sweden’s proclivity for global community when it joined the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR) “to promote a culture of peace and nonviolence in the world, while advancing the pacific management of conflicts and respect for human rights and international humanitarian law.” While we recognize your nation’s longstanding reputation as a leader in preventing war has been damaged by its recent role as a major international source of arms production and sales, nevertheless the Swedish government’s significant funding of global human rights NGOs, including SweFOR, is testimony to its continuing constructive leadership. We believe that will be irreversibly damaged should Sweden join NATO.
Indeed, we honor Sweden’s historic efforts to strengthen international decision-making bodies, such as the 1953 appointment of Dag Hammarskjold as the United Nation’s second Secretary-General. Succeeding Trygve Lie of Norway in that role, Hammarskjold helped model peace-building diplomacy rooted in common decency and trustworthiness. These iconic leaders paved the way for generations of Scandinavians to be welcomed at innumerable negotiations tables worldwide. Today, with the UN’s reputation severely tarnished (particularly due to its corrupted so-called Security Council) and the prospect of both Finland and Sweden joining NATO, there is a foreboding sense that the values of multilateralism and inclusivity have been eliminated.
We recognize that our perspective at FOR-USA is offered from the vantage point of a country with limited moral authority. Our nation was founded on the dual genocides of its Indigenous peoples and of enslaved Africans, and for centuries the capitalist and imperialist policies of the U.S. government have led to the deaths, incarceration, and exploitation of countless millions at home and abroad. Despite boasting the greatest financial wealth in private hands and the most expensive military ever in human history, there are an estimated 140 million poor and low-wage people today in our nation. Nevertheless, as we recognize and resist our government’s relentless warmaking machine, with U.S. armed forces in control of at least 750 military bases in 80 countries – including five in Europe, which have nuclear weapons aimed at Russia alongside similar nuclear-strike capabilities of other NATO members – we urge Sweden to resist joining NATO, arguably the largest and most threatening military entity in the world.
Our world today needs to prioritize nonviolent solutions and alliances for peace, not greater investment in militarism. The best hope now is to focus on what is most important: saving lives. To achieve this, we urge Sweden to remain neutral and do what it often does best: diplomacy, by pushing for a cease-fire and finding a way for President Putin to extract himself from this unwinnable and untenable situation and its ominous end point of nuclear holocaust. Dismantlement of NATO towards a plan to achieve a common global security system and architecture should be part of this vision.
In deep peace, solidarity and fellowship,
Ethan Vesely-Flad and Anthony Nicotera
Interim Co-Executive Directors
U.S. Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR-USA)