How Sweden almost became a nuclear-armed state – and why it didn’t

Historian article

By Naman Karl-Thomas Habtom, published 5th May 2022

This article examines the conditions under which Sweden considered and subsequently pursued nuclear weapons. After failing to secure the establishment of a Scandinavian defence union, the Swedish government initially viewed nuclear arms as an effective means to safeguard the country’s neutrality. Owing to technical limitations, reassessments on the value of such bombs as a deterrent, and changing political winds, Sweden ultimately abandoned its advanced nuclear weapons programme.

For most aspirants, the main challenges to attaining their goal of a nuclear weapon are financial, scientific, or diplomatic. But for Sweden, none of these factors as a fundamental hindrance to its pursuit of an atomic weapon. Instead of basing its decision to reverse course on external threats of regime change or sanctions, Sweden relied on a strategic re-evaluation of its years-long policy as well as changing domestic political dynamics...

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