chapter  9
20 Pages

Combining dependence with distance: Sweden

During the three decades following 1945, Sweden was governed by Social Democratic-led governments; after a brief pause, the Social Democrats again took power between 1982 and 1991, and have governed from 1994 until the present. The Swedish electoral system of proportional representation has always produced a range of parties in the Swedish parliament, which, in turn, has often necessitated minority or coalition governments. But even if the dominance of Sveriges Socialdemokratiska Arbetareparti (Social Democratic Workers’ Party or SAP) has been challenged and its politics often modified by the need for compromise, the SAP has had an enormous influence on both domestic and foreign policy. On Swedish security policy, however, there has existed a wide consensus among the political parties. As relations between the Soviet Union and the Western powers deteriorated at the end of the 1940s, the Swedish government decided that the country was to follow the doctrine of ‘non-alignment in peace, neutrality as the goal in war’. Until 1989, the Swedes-like all other Western Europeans-lived under what was perceived as a Soviet threat,2 but as this threat disappeared, political balancing between the superpowers diminished in importance.