Sweden’s PM wants to apply to join Nato at end of June: report

Sweden's Prime Minister has already decided to join Nato, with her government planning to submit Sweden's application at the Madrid summit of the security alliance at the end of June, the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper has reported.

Sweden's PM wants to apply to join Nato at end of June: report
A meeting of the Social Democrats' leading committee will be held at the party's headquarters in Stockholm, which is pictured above with Ukrainian colours projected onto it. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

The newspaper made the claim in a column by its political commentator, on the day that Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson is due to meet her Finnish counterpart Sanna Marin in Stockholm to discuss the publication of Finland’s new report on the security situation. 

At the same time, the Aftonbladet newspaper reported that the Social Democrats have called a special meeting of the party’s ruling committee for May 24th, where it could decide to back Nato membership. 

The meeting, the newspaper claims, will be the culmination of a six-week internal party dialogue punctuated by three national meetings on security politics, and a meeting in Stockholm on May 23rd of all 26 district chairs. 

It is scheduled to last for five hours and will take place at the party headquarters in Stockholm. 

“The issue has to be treated with the respect it demands. There are still a lot of people who have been formed around the position taken by Olof Palme,” said a source the newspaper claimed was “centrally placed” within the party.

“It remains to be seen whether a decision [on Nato] will be taken [at the meeeting], but it’s clear that a lot will be hanging on it,” a “centrally placed” source said. 

The party on Monday launched an “internal party dialogue” on Sweden’s security situation, writing in a press release that the aim was to have a “proper discussion” on Sweden’s security and encourage party members to “increase their knowledge” on the issues. 

Sweden’s non-aligned status, which saw it avoid joining international military alliances during the First World War, the Second World War, and the Cold War, has been a core part of Social Democrat politics. It arguably reached its high point under Prime Minister Olof Palme, who was a vocal critic of both US and Soviet foreign policy. 

In the press release announcing the party dialogue, the party said that while members would be encouraged to make their say, the final decision would be up to the party’s ruling committee. 

“If during the process a need emerges to change course in security policy, it will be up to the party’s board… to make such a decision,” the party said. 

According to Aftonbladet, it has not yet been decided if the three planned national meetings will be held digitally or physically. 

The source said that the reassessment of Sweden’s security situation currently being carried out by the ‘security policy analysis group’, could be completed ahead of its May 31st deadline, allowing its conclusions to inform any decisions taken at the May 24th meeting.

The Sweden Democrats on Monday called a similar special meeting of its party committee, in which it gave party leader Jimmie Åkesson a mandate to push for Nato membership. 

This means there is now a majority within the Swedish parliament in favour of joining the security organisation.

However, the Social Democrats argue that a decision to join should require a 75 percent qualified majority, giving the party the power to block the parliament. 

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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.