Sweden’s PM: ‘I do not rule out Nato membership’

Sweden's Prime Minister has declared that she no longer rules out Nato membership, in a sign of the shifting position of the ruling Social Democrats.

Sweden's PM: 'I do not rule out Nato membership'
Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson told SVT that she did not rule out Nato membership. Photo: TT
“I do not rule out Nato membership in any way,” Magdalena Andersson told Sweden’s state broadcaster SVT. “But I want to make a well-founded analysis of the possibilities open to us and the threats and risks and involved, to be able to take the decision that is best for Sweden.” 
Andersson faced criticism from opposition parties earlier this month when she warned that a Nato application from Sweden in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine risked “further destabilising the security of this part of Europe”. 
Her party has also taken a decision at its annual congress not to join Nato, but Andersson told SVT that this decision had been taken in a different geopolitical situation, and could be revised.

“We should note that non-alignment has served Sweden well. It has kept us out of conflicts,” she said. “But when the whole map of security politics is being rewritten, you need to update your analysis and take your decision based on that.” 

After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, public opinion in Sweden has become increasingly favourable to Nato, with several polls indicating that a majority are now in favour of joining.

At the same time, the opposition Moderate Party has pledged to apply to join Nato if it ends up leading the government after the coming election on September 11th, so long as there is a majority in parliament in favour. 

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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.