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Nearly one-third of Swedes want to join Nato

The Local · 20 May 2015, 08:03

Published: 20 May 2015 08:03 GMT+02:00

The new figures by the Gothenburg-based SOM Institute, which conducts surveys on public opinion in Sweden every year, suggest that support for Nato has not changed markedly since last year.

In 2014 the same survey showed that 31 percent of respondents thought that joining Nato would be a good idea. This was a sharp change from previous years: 29 percent in 2013 and 17 percent in 2012.

“I think it's the combination of the perceived threat from Russia and a discussion about the armed forces' inability to carry out their tasks which leads to more Swedes being in favour of Swedish Nato membership,” political science professor Ulf Bjereld of Gothenburg University told Swedish Radio.

Traditionally neutral or non-aligned Sweden has long been sceptical of joining the defence alliance, and more Swedes are against Nato membership than for it – 37 percent in 2014, compared to 34 percent in 2013 and 45 percent in 2012.

A similar poll in January by Ipsos for the Dagens Nyheter newspaper put support for Nato membership at 33 percent. At any rate, Wednesday's survey, which is being presented by Bjereld and his research colleague Karl Ydén, suggests that the debate is here to stay.

“Many were surprised last year that public opinion on Nato had changed so much, that opposition to Nato had decreased so rapidly. They thought that perhaps it was a coincidence, but this year's survey shows that that was not the case. Swedish opposition to Nato has actually decreased and thus also the framework of the Swedish debate on Nato,” Bjereld told Swedish Radio.

DEBATE: "Sweden's smug wisdom of neutrality is a farce"

Sweden's ruling centre-left coalition – the Social Democrats and the Green Party – is historically against Nato membership. However, there have been indications in the past year that the Nordic country is moving closer to joining the defence alliance.

Story continues below…

In April Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland announced far-reaching plans to extend their military cooperation. The move was “a direct response to aggressive Russian behaviour”, said Sweden's defence minister Peter Hultqvist and his Nordic counterparts at the time.

Although Sweden is set to invest 10.2 billion kronor into its armed forces in the coming year, the country's defence capabilities have been questioned following increasing military activity from Russia in the Baltic region.

In October 2014, a foreign submarine – suspected to be from Russia, although this was never confirmed – was spotted in Swedish waters just outside Stockholm. A number of Russian planes have also been spotted in or close to Swedish airspace over the past year.

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The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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