Sweden’s ruling party has begun debating whether the country should join Nato, and neighbouring Finland expects to reach a decision within weeks, as Moscow warned that the Nordic nations’ accession would “not bring stability” to Europe.
Both countries are officially non-aligned militarily, but public support for Nato membership has almost doubled since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, to about 50% in Sweden and 60% in Finland, multiple opinion polls suggest.
Sweden’s centre-left Social Democrats, led by prime minister Magdalena Andersson, said their “security review” was about more than just joining the 30-nation alliance, adding that the party could decide to apply even without the backing of members.
Having stressed at the outbreak of the war that non-alignment had “served Sweden’s interests well”, Andersson said she was “ready to discuss” the policy in light of Moscow’s aggression, and in late March said she “did not rule out” joining Nato.
“When Russia invaded Ukraine, Sweden’s security position changed fundamentally,” the party said in a statement on Monday. The Social Democrat general secretary, Tobias Baudin, said the security review would be complete “before the summer”.
The question is expected to be a key issue in parliamentary elections due on 11 September, with centre-right opposition parties already saying they would back a Nato application and the far-right Sweden Democrats also open to the idea.
Finland, which shares a 1,340km border with Russia and, like Sweden, is a Nato partner after abandoning its position of a strict neutrality at the end of the cold war, is expected to outline its decision regarding the alliance before midsummer.
Alexander Stubb, a former prime minister of Finland, told AFP it was “a foregone conclusion” that Helsinki would apply to join Nato, probably in time for a June Nato summit in Madrid.
A government-commissioned national security review is due to be delivered to parliament next week to help Finnish MPs decide on the question before they vote, with one recent poll suggesting only six of the country’s 200 MPs were opposed.
“We will have very careful discussions, but not taking any more time than we have to,” the country’s prime minister, Sanna Marin, said last week. “I think we will end the discussion before midsummer,” she said.
Both countries have received public assurances from the NATO secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, that their applications would be welcome, as well as expressions of support from several members including the US, UK, Germany, France and Turkey.
But the move would almost certainly be seen as a provocation by the Kremlin, whose spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said on Monday that the alliance was “a tool geared towards confrontation” and that their possible accession “will not bring stability to the European continent”.
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