Foreign Policy Audit: Ukraine-Sweden

10:08 AM 12-6-2017

A discussion paper was prepared by Daria Gaidai and Leonid Litra, research fellows at the Institute of World Policy

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1. Introduction

2. Interests of Sweden toward Ukraine and interests of Ukraine toward Sweden: points of intersection

2.1. Swedish value-based foreign policy and Ukraine’s place in it

2.2. Sweden as an important donor of Ukrainian reforms

2.3. Separating friendship from business: the fate of Swedish investors in Ukraine

3. Who is who: interest groups and groups of influence

3.1. Who is the engine for relations between Ukraine and Sweden

3.2. Public sentiments toward Ukraine in Sweden

4. Existing and potential risks and conflicts

5. Recommendations


In official statements, Sweden is consistently named not only an ally, but also one of the closest friends of Ukraine in the EU. Kyiv appreciates the strong position of Sweden in support of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine under Russian aggression. There are no differences in positions on Ukraine between the major parties of the country, and most Swedish people have no doubt of Russia’s responsibility for the military conflict in Donbas. Moreover, Sweden is also one of the major donors to Ukrainian reforms.

Swedish taxpayers fund implementation of numerous projects in Ukraine in such fields as public administration, judicial, financial, and energy sectors, as well as programs aimed at supporting the civil society, decentralization, anti-corruption reforms, introduction of energy saving technologies, etc. Sweden belongs to the circle of foreign friends of Kyiv that have been actively supporting democratic reforms and European integration of Ukraine for over two decades.

Nevertheless, Swedes, like other European partners of Ukraine, were burned and disappointed after the 2004 Orange Revolution, when Sweden increased the volume of assistance to Ukraine by several times, becoming one of the leaders in terms of amount of political and economic investments in post-revolutionary Ukraine. Major Swedish companies and banks planned to expand their businesses in Ukrainian market. Even numerous failures, rollbacks in reforms, and strengthening of authoritarian tendencies in Ukraine in 2010-2014 have not forced Sweden to abandon support for Ukraine and its European future. After the victory of Viktor Yanukovych on the presidential elections, Stockholm made every effort to establish contacts with the new government, simultaneously increasing support for the civil society. Perhaps, this is the only investment that paid for itself. As predicted by the Swedish donors, civil society has become a major agent of change in late 2013.

After the Revolution of Dignity, Swedish-Ukrainian cooperation has got a second wind. Stockholm considered and still considers European integration as a key instrument for the preservation of democratic and economic development of the EU’s neighbors. Therefore, the purpose of the large-scale Swedish assistance program for Ukraine is strengthening Ukrainian institutions and implementing economic reforms aimed at successful implementation of the Association Agreement and the FTA with the EU.

The interests of Sweden toward Ukraine are as follows:

restoration of peace and security in the region, which is impossible without strong and prosperous Ukraine;

successful democratic and economic transformation of Ukraine as a trigger for changes in other Eastern Partnership states;

introduction of high standards for the protection of human and minority rights as the basis of Ukraine’s European integration and a positive example for other countries in the region;

development of trade and economic cooperation, including through the expansion of contacts between Ukrainian and Swedish companies; increase in amount of Swedish investments.

The interests of Ukraine toward Sweden are as follows:

support for the efforts of Ukraine to counter Russian aggression and principled position on maintaining the sanctions against Russia on the international level;

support for Ukraine’s European integration and the open-door policy within the EU;

long-term support for reforms and programs aimed at overcoming the impact of military aggression, particularly as an example for other partner countries of Ukraine;

increase in the amount of Swedish investments and Ukrainian exports to Sweden; expansion of major Swedish companies to Ukrainian market, which would improve Ukraine’s image among foreign investors;

hardline stance on Russian energy projects that undermine the position of Ukraine as a transit country for Russian natural gas to the EU.

Any discussion of Ukrainian-Swedish relations is complete without mentioning the historical ties between the two nations in medieval and early modern periods. We refer to both “Swedish diplomacy” of Ukrainian Hetmans (Bohdan Khmelnytsky, Ivan Mazepa), who sought an alliance with Sweden and more ancient past, strong dynastic and economic ties between Kyivan Rus and medieval Sweden. According to the Norman theory of the origin of Rus, all its princes had Varangian origins. Although the theory that the state on the territory of medieval Rus emerged due to the Vikings from Scandinavia is still debated (especially in Russia), historical sources testify undeniably close contacts between Rus and the Viking state. Suffice it to mention the dynastic ties, in particular Yaroslav the Wise was married to Swedish Princess Ingegerd.

In 2008, President Viktor Yushchenko even decided to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the Mazepa’s union with Swedish King Carl XII at the national level as a manifestation of independent and European aspirations of Ukrainians . The visit of King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia to Ukraine has become the culmination of the re-discovered historic union. In Ukrainian history, the “Swedish story” remained an unrealized alternative to the aggressive policies of neighboring states, a reason to try to another “what if” dream. Visiting the Swedish archives and museums, where Hetman mace and the only known original copy of Pylyp Orlyk’s Constitution are kept, remain obligatory activities for Ukrainian leaders visiting Sweden.

This report was conducted within the project of the Institute of World Policy “Ukraine’s Foreign Policy Audit”. This project is implemented with the support of the “Think Tank Support Initiative” implemented by the International Renaissance Foundation (IRF) in partnership with Think Tank Fund (TTF) with the financial support of the Embassy of Sweden in Ukraine.

The contents are those of the Institute of World Policy and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Swedish Government, the International Renaissance Foundation, Think Tank Fund. No part of this research may be reproduced or transferred in any form or by any means, graphic, electronic, or including photocopying or by any information storage retrieval system, without the proper reference to the original source.