Swedish government firm on not joining Nato despite Russian aggression

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson told reporters that Sweden plans to stay out of Nato despite Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Swedish government firm on not joining Nato despite Russian aggression
Stockholmers protest outside the Russian embassy against Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

With the military offensive ordered last night by Russian President Vladimir Putin, “we have entered a new and dark chapter in European history”, Andersson told a press conference.

She condemned “a clear violation of international law and against the European security order”.

Despite a debate about Nato membership that has been revived by Ukraine tensions, the Social Democrat leader said Sweden’s position on not joining the defence alliance remained in place.

“In a situation like this it is important that Sweden’s long-standing security policy stays firm. That we are predictable and clear,” Andersson said.

“Sweden has been alliance-free for an extremely long time. It has served Sweden’s interests well,” she added.

Earlier in neighbouring Finland, the government also ruled out immediate moves closer to Nato membership.

“We have a security policy designed to withstand times of crisis. We will use the means at our disposal, including cooperation with Nato partners,” Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told a press conference.

“After a crisis, we will see what further action is needed,” the minister said.

Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto noted that “despite early warnings, this morning has been a shock to us all”.

Unlike Sweden, Finland has adopted a so-called “Nato option” provision, which means that “if Finland’s security requires it, Finland has the opportunity to apply for membership”, Prime Minister Sanna Marin said.

Full membership is an ongoing debate which has already been reignited in recent weeks in Finland, and Russia’s action would likely spur a broader debate, Marin noted.

“However, this is a debate that would require broad parliamentary consensus,” Marin said.

Nato member Norway condemned a “serious violation of international law” and announced the “temporary” relocation of its embassy from Kyiv to Lviv, in the west of Ukraine.

“The attack is a serious violation of international law and puts innocent people’s lives at risk,” Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store tweeted.

Denmark, also a Nato nation, summoned the Russian ambassador to condemn the invasion.

“This day is a stain on Russian history. Denmark strongly condemns Russia’s ruthless and completely unprovoked attack on Ukraine,” Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said in a statement.

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Sweden’s PM Magdalena Andersson in US to visit President Biden

Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson is in Washington today alongside Finland’s president Sauli Niinistö. The two will visit US President Joe Biden to discuss the war in Ukraine and Turkey’s opposition to their Nato applications, which were handed in yesterday.

Sweden's PM Magdalena Andersson in US to visit President Biden

“The meeting is an important security policy signal,” Andersson wrote on her Instagram account from Washington DC.

The two Nordic leaders boarded their flight to Washington shortly after their Nato ambassadors applied to join the alliance on Wednesday morning.

At the meeting in the White House today, the delicate security situation in both Finland and Sweden will be discussed.

The US has given security assurances to the two countries during the gap between their applications to join Nato and the accession as members, as have Britain, France, Germany, Denmark, Norway and Iceland. 

“Biden Finland and Sweden are longtime, stalwart partners of the United States. By joining Nato, they will further strengthen our defence cooperation and benefit the entire Transatlantic Alliance,” Biden said in his statement. 

The US would maintain its “robust exercise activity and presence” in the Baltic Sea region, he added.

“While their applications for Nato membership are being considered, the United States will work with Finland and Sweden to remain vigilant against any threats to our shared security, and to deter and confront aggression or the threat of aggression.” 

Another issue on the agenda will be how to respond to Turkey’s moves to block the process until Sweden and Finland meet demands to, among other things, extradite people in Sweden the country claims are linked to terror organisations and end  its embargo on weapons sales to Sweden. 

The US, as the most powerful country in the alliance, could be able to put pressure on Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, to back down, or offer other concessions, perhaps over its wish to buy US F-16 fighter jets.  

Andersson spoke to Biden on the phone on Friday and met him in Brussels at the end of March, but this is her first visit to Washington as prime minister. 

Final approval for Sweden and Finland’s bid could take up to a year, and Russia is expected to react to the two countries joining Nato in some way.

Sweden and Finland’s decision to join the Nato alliance was applauded by Ukrainians taking part in a demonstration outside the White House.