Swedish PM rejects opposition calls to consider joining NATO
Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson has rejected opposition calls to consider joining NATO following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying an application now would destabilise security in Europe.
While Andersson described Russia’s actions in Ukraine as “an increasingly brutal and indiscriminate warfare that affects civilians,” denouncing the conflict as “illegal” and calling for violence against civilians to stop “immediately,” she did not seem interested in further entangling Sweden in the conflict. Stockholm has successfully delivered military equipment, she explained and appears to be looking for further ways to support Kyiv – such as strengthening its resistance to cyber-attacks – that don’t run the risk of directly involving the nation in hostilities.
Sweden and Finland recently wrote a joint letter to the other member of the EU reminding them of the common defence clause within the Treaty of Lisbon, which requires EU countries to provide mutual support and assistance “should a Member State be subjected to an armed attack on its territory.”
The clause serves the same purpose as NATO’s Article 5, which declares that an attack on one NATO state is considered an attack on all members and will be retaliated against accordingly.
Sweden’s center-right opposition parties have long sought NATO membership for the country, a move the governing Social Democrats have historically opposed. While Andersson acknowledged on Saturday that the “security situation” had been “altered in a dramatic way,” and NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg has hinted the door is open to a quick accession to the alliance, no public plans have been made to join.
Russia does not want Finland or Sweden to join NATO and late last month, Moscow made its latest warning of “serious military-political consequences” if they did.
Andersson was speaking after meeting opposition party leaders to discuss the worsening security situation.
A poll on Friday by Demoskop and commissioned by Aftonbladet newspaper showed 51% of Swedes were in favour of NATO membership, up from 42% in January. People against joining fell to 27% from 37%. It’s the first time such a poll has shown a majority in favour.
Sweden has not been in a war since 1814 and has built its foreign policy on non-participation in military alliances, but it has forged ever-closer ties to NATO in recent years as tensions with Russia in the Baltic region have risen.
Ulf Kristersson, the leader of the Moderates, called on the government to begin broad domestic political discussions about NATO membership, a debate that has already started in Finland. read more
Finland and Sweden have close military ties and a move by one to join NATO would put added pressure on the other to apply.
“It is urgent,” Kristersson told news agency TT.
“We can’t get behind a wind-break and hope that it all blows over and then be surprised by a Finnish decision in a month or two.”
Andersson declined on Tuesday to answer questions regarding how Sweden’s opinion on NATO membership would change if Finland joined, however. While Sweden’s neighbour has expressed renewed interest in becoming part of the alliance, with a quorum of citizens signing a petition to bring the question of membership before Parliament last week, the majority of Finnish MPs questioned by local media on Tuesday declined to go on record with their opinions about entering NATO.