Phases in Swedish Neutrality

Courtesy Reuters

IN THE sixth year of war, the pendulum of Swedish neutrality has swung sharply to the Allied side. Despite Stockholm's reluctance to depart from its cherished position of neutrality, German-Swedish relations have deteriorated to a point where open hostilities between the two countries appear a distinct possibility.

In mid-November the Nazis recalled the German Minister to Sweden, Dr. Hans Thomsen. Germany had previously declared the Eastern Baltic a zone of naval operations in which all ships would be sunk without warning, and Sweden had protested in unusually sharp terms. Other factors in the mounting tension were the repeated inroads and depredations on north Swedish territory by German troops fleeing from Finland, the drastic roundup of known Nazi agents which the Swedish police carried out in November, and, finally, the Swedish announcement that she would not hold the annual trade talks with Germany but would let the current agreement expire on January 1, 1945, without renewal.

It has been amply demonstrated in this war that neutrality is far from an absolute and immutable status. Theoretically, neutrality requires a complete balance in the neutral country's relations with the two belligerent groups of states. In practice, however, such total or ideal neutrality is seldom attained. In the present war it has been conspicuous by its absence. Which of the few surviving neutral countries can claim to have maintained the same status throughout the war? All of them have passed through various stages of affiliation with one or the other of the belligerents, ranging from unavowed collaboration to non-belligerent alliance, or even "moral belligerency." The swing of the pendulum from one to the other of the two warring blocs is perhaps most marked in the case of Sweden. The Swedes, like other wary bystanders, continually adjusted their concepts of neutrality in accordance with the demands of the winning side.


There are four distinct phases in the evolution of Sweden's policy of neutrality. In the short initial phase of the war, from September 1, 1939, to November 30, 1939, Sweden adhered

Loading, please wait...

Related Articles

This site uses cookies to improve your user experience. Click here to learn more.