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Swedish Nato application would ‘destabilise’ Northern Europe: PM

Non Nato-members Sweden and Finland are counting on the European Union's mutual defence clause in the event of a military attack, Sweden's prime minister said Tuesday amid heightened tensions between Russia and the West.

Sweden's Prime Minister, Magdalena Andersson, holds a press conference after discussing the security situation with other party leaders.
Sweden's Prime Minister, Magdalena Andersson, holds a press conference after discussing the security situation with other party leaders. Photo: Jessica Gow /TT

Ahead of a summit of EU leaders in Versailles on Thursday and Friday, the two countries wrote a joint letter to “remind the other member states about the EU’s declaration of solidarity in the Lisbon Treaty”, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson told reporters.

The clause in Article 42 of the 2009 Treaty requires “other EU countries to come to the support and aid, with all possible means, of a member state under armed attack”, she said.

The exact nature of the EU’s military solidarity — which is similar to, and more recent than, Nato’s Article 5 — remains vague. Whether it is mandatory is a subject of debate.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has raised concerns in Finland, which shares a border with Russia, and in Sweden. The two countries are officially non-aligned, although both have been Nato partners since the mid-1990s and turned the page on their neutrality at the end of the Cold War.

Both Sweden and Finland have ruled out applying for Nato membership for now, though parliamentary discussions have begun in Helsinki.

“A [Swedish] Nato application now would destabilise this part of Europe even further,” Andersson said Tuesday. Finnish President Sauli Niinisto visited US President Joe Biden in Washington for talks at the weekend, where the US, Finland and Sweden agreed to increase their security cooperation.

The US would likely support the two Nordic countries if they were attacked, most analysts predict, though no formal guarantees have been signed.

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Swedish and Finnish support for joining Nato has soared.

Both countries now have a majority in favour of joining the alliance, according to recent opinion polls. But Nato membership would infuriate Moscow, which is opposed to an expansion of the alliance in its vicinity.

During a visit to Finland in early February, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen recalled the existence of the EU’s mutual defence clause, stressing the body’s “complete solidarity”.

Member comments

  1. What Andersson really meant, but couldn’t say, was that applying for NATO-membership would destabilise the left flank of her political party, the Social Democrats, and her government. It was almost embarrassing to watch her squirming and wriggling during her press conference this afternoon (Wednesday) when she was repeatedly asked about ‘destabilisation’ by the journalists present.

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BREAKING

Sweden to join Nato: ‘We are leaving one era and entering another”

Sweden on Monday officially announced it will apply for Nato membership as a deterrent against Russian aggression, entering a "new era" as it reverses two centuries of military non-alignment.

Sweden to join Nato: 'We are leaving one era and entering another''

In a joint press conference held with Ulf Kristersson, leader of the opposition Moderate Party, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said joining the alliance would act as a deterrent against Russian aggression. 

“The government has decided to inform Nato that Sweden wants to become a member of the alliance,” Andersson told reporters a day after neighbouring Finland made a similar announcement.

“We are leaving one era and beginning another,” she said, adding that Sweden’s Nato ambassador would “shortly” inform Nato.

Ulf Kristersson, whose party has long supported membership of the alliance, said that he wanted to put party political differences aside to support the government in its decision.  

“There are many major issues where we think differently, but we are going to take a joint responsibility for the process of taking Sweden into Nato,” he said. 

Sweden and Finland have both expressed a desire to act in lockstep on Nato membership and submit their applications jointly.

“We expect it shouldn’t take more than a year” for the alliance’s 30 members to unanimously ratify Sweden’s membership application, Andersson said.

The announcement was expected after her Social Democratic party on Sunday backed membership, in a dramatic turnaround after having opposed the idea since the birth of the Western military alliance.

It came after a debate in parliament in which all parties apart from the Green Party and Left Party spoke in favour of Sweden joining the alliance.  

“It is now clear that there is a broad majority in Sweden’s parliament for Sweden joining Nato,” she said. 

After Sweden’s announcement, Denmark, Norway and Iceland published a joint statement in which they promised to Sweden “by all means necessary” if the country is attacked in the gap between application and admission to the alliance. 

“Should Finland or Sweden be victims of aggression on their territory before obtaining Nato membership, we will assist Finland and Sweden by all means necessary,” the three countries said. “We immediately initiate preparations in order to effectuate these security assurances.”

Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, said on Monday that Sweden and Finland joining Nato did not represent a direct threat to Russia’s interests, but he said that if Nato began to site equipment on their territories, Russia would have to respond. 

“Russia has no problems with these states (Finland, Sweden). There is no immediate threat to Russia,” he said at a meeting of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, which groups Russia with Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

“But the expansion of military infrastructure into this territory would certainly provoke our response,” he said.  

Sweden’s defence minister Peter Hultqvist is flying to Washington on Monday, where he will meet his counterpart Lloyd Austin.

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