The Swedish prime minister, the social democrat Magdalena Andersson, and the leader of the opposition, the conservative Ulf Kristersson, have formally announced this Monday that Sweden will apply to join NATO. “There is a clear parliamentary majority that supports accession,” Andersson assured at a press conference. “It is the best option for the security of Sweden,” she added. “Russia will not like Sweden and Finland joining NATO. We have to be prepared for some difficult months”, Kristersson highlighted. The Swedish president has insisted that different members of the Alliance — “USA, United Kingdom, France and Germany” — have offered guarantees that they will protect Sweden during the months that it takes to ratify accession.
The announcement by the leaders of the two main parliamentary forces in the Scandinavian country comes hours after a parliamentary debate was held in the Riksdag (Parliament) in which the only formations that have maintained their position against joining the Alliance have been The Left and the Green Party, which add only 43 of the 349 seats. And one day after Finland — a country with which Sweden has maintained very close military cooperation for the last decade — formally announced its intention to join the military bloc. The Swedish president has acknowledged in the Riksdag that the final decision in Stockholm has been “deeply influenced” by the events in Helsinki. Andersson has stressed that if Sweden were to become the only country in the Baltic Sea that does not belong to the Atlantic Alliance, it would be “in a very vulnerable position”, and has mentioned the risk that Russia would “increase the pressure” on the Scandinavian country .
The Social Democratic prime minister has announced that the Swedish ambassador to NATO will deliver the formal application for membership “in the next few days” at the Alliance’s headquarters in Brussels, and has added that it will be presented simultaneously with that of Finland.
Andersson and some other leaders of formations in favor of joining the transatlantic organization have defended in their parliamentary speech on Monday that they will ask in their application for NATO membership to exclude the possibility of deploying nuclear weapons or the installation of permanent bases with troops allies on Swedish territory —as Norway and Denmark once demanded when joining the Atlantic Alliance—. Three members of the organization founded in 1949 are nuclear powers: the United States, France and the United Kingdom; others, such as Germany, Italy or Turkey, harbor US atomic weapons. And more than a dozen allies, including Spain, have permanent bases with US soldiers on their territory.
The Swedish Social Democratic Party announced on Sunday that it had decided to reverse its traditional position – defended for 73 years – against being part of a military alliance. In her speech before Parliament, the Prime Minister stressed that applying to join the Alliance “is not an easy decision, but although non-alignment in its various forms has been beneficial to Sweden for 200 years, it will not be so useful for the country in the future”.
This Monday’s announcement puts an end to more than two centuries of neutrality -or “non-alignment”, a term that Stockholm has preferred to use since its entry into the EU, in 1995- in which the Scandinavian country has not been involved in a significant way. directly in any armed conflict. Andersson stressed in his parliamentary speech that the integration of the Scandinavian country into NATO should not affect “Sweden’s ability to maintain an independent foreign policy, focused on equality, democracy, human rights and nuclear disarmament”.
On Sunday, after announcing the historic decision of the Social Democratic Party in favor of joining the military bloc, Andersson stressed that Sweden “will be vulnerable” during the time that the ratification process continues, which will require the approval in the parliaments of thirty current NATO members. Russia has repeatedly threatened Sweden and Finland in recent months with “political and military consequences” if they apply to join the Atlantic Alliance. “It is completely clear to us that, as a result of this decision, the security of Sweden and Finland will not be strengthened,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Riabkov said in Moscow on Monday. Shortly after, Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, maintained that Moscow does not consider the Stockholm and Helsinki decision a threat, but that the deployment of military infrastructure would “undoubtedly” have a response from the Kremlin.
The Swedish and Finnish governments have pointed out that they do not rule out that their countries may suffer cyberattacks from Russian hackers in the coming months, or that the Russian government will try to interfere in future electoral processes. The next general election in Sweden will take place on September 11. “There are so many things about Sweden that are worth defending; and I sincerely believe that the best way to defend them is through joining NATO”, the Prime Minister highlighted in her parliamentary intervention.
In recent weeks, most NATO allies have spoken in favor of the entry of the two Nordic countries into the Alliance. In addition, some of its main members, such as the United States or the United Kingdom, have assured that they will guarantee the security of the two Nordic countries during the period of ratification of membership. Jens Stoltenberg, secretary general of the transatlantic organization, said in Berlin on Sunday that NATO is willing to offer the two Nordic countries “security guarantees” during the accession process. Shortly after Stockholm formally announced its intention to join the Atlantic Alliance, the governments of Norway, Denmark and Iceland have issued a joint statement in which they commit to defending Sweden and Finland “by all means necessary”. in case they suffer an attack during the next few months.
Stoltenberg stressed that the organization will provide Sweden and Finland with a rapid accession process, even the shortest in the organization’s history. The Norwegian also pointed out the possibility of reinforcing the presence of the Atlantic Alliance in Sweden, Finland and throughout the Baltic region for the time necessary to make the accession of both countries official.