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NATO

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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SWEDEN AND RUSSIA

Sweden joining Nato ‘no problem for Russia’

Russia has "no problem" if Finland and Sweden join Nato, President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday.

Sweden joining Nato 'no problem for Russia'

“We don’t have problems with Sweden and Finland like we do with Ukraine,” Putin told a news conference in the Turkmenistan capital of Ashgabat.

“We don’t have territorial differences. There is nothing that could bother us about Sweden and Finland joining Nato. If Finland and Sweden wish to, they can join. That’s up to them. They can join whatever they want.”

However, “if military contingents and military infrastructure were deployed there, we would be obliged to respond symmetrically and raise the same threats for those territories where threats have arisen for us,” Putin said.

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Sweden and Finland have both decided to apply to join Nato after Russia launched its military operation in pro-Western Ukraine on February 24. The formal process for membership was launched at the Nato summit in Madrid on Wednesday.

Until now, Russia had always been critical of the prospect of the two Nordic countries joining the alliance, saying it would be a “destabilising factor” for international security. Putin nevertheless condemned Nato’s “imperial ambitions”, accusing the alliance of seeking to assert its “supremacy” through the Ukraine conflict.

“Ukraine and the well-being of Ukrainian people is not the aim of the collective West and Nato but a means to defend their own interests,” Putin said. “The Nato countries’ leaders wish to… assert their supremacy, their imperial ambitions.”¬†

The Atlantic alliance and “above all the United States have long needed an external enemy around which they can unite their allies,” the Russian leader said. “Iran wasn’t good for that. We’ve given them this opportunity… to gather the whole world around them.”

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