The traditional image of the Scandinavian Baltic societies is as prosperous, tolerant, and open-minded, embodying respect for human rights and a strong and humane welfare state.  And, in some cases, at any rate, a deep disposition to geopolitical neutrality.

However, the politics of these countries is changing dramatically and has been for a number of years.  The most recent manifestations of this are the decisions of Sweden and Finland to join NATO, the electoral performance of the Sweden Democrats in the September 2022 General Election, and the decisions of the Danish Social Democrat Government to adopt pretty hardline anti-immigration positions, in order to avoid giving political ground to the opposition Danish Peoples Party.

There is a range of underlying reasons for these changes, including the increased salience of immigration as a political issue, Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine on 24 February this year, and the widespread challenges faced by ‘Scandinavian-style social democracy’ across Europe. These developments have caused political parties to change their policies significantly. For example, the Swedish and Finnish Social Democrats decided to back NATO membership and the Sweden Democrats have abandoned their active support for Swedish withdrawal from the EU and are also backing NATO membership.

These changes are being tested at the polls. Following the Swedish general election on 11 September this year, a new Swedish government was formed on 17 October, led by the Moderaten and with the support of the Sweden Democrats on the basis that their migration policies will form an important part of the government programme. On 5 October Denmark’s general election was brought forward from June 2023 to 1 November 2022, and the Finnish general election will probably take place in April 2023 against the background of the Finns Party performing strongly in current opinion polls.

It is a fast-moving situation and our panel discusses why these changes have happened, what they mean for the future geopolitical stance of these important countries and what are the implications of this for geopolitical security in the region.


Professor Heikki Patomaki, Professor of World Politics at the University of Helsinki

Charlotte Flindt Pedersen, Director of the Danish Foreign Policy Society

Dr Anders Widfeldt, Senior Lecturer, School of Social Science, University of Aberdeen

Chair: Rt Hon Charles Clarke, former Home Secretary and Co-founder of the Baltic Geopolitics Programme at Cambridge