Swedish Social Democrat tabloid backs Nato as Finland starts debate

Sweden's main Social Democrat newspaper has backed the country joining Nato on the day that Finland's parliament holds a historic debate on the alliance.

Swedish Social Democrat tabloid backs Nato as Finland starts debate
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky speaks to the Finnish parliament at the start of this month. Photo: Finnish parliament.

The Aftonbladet newspaper, which describes itself as reflecting an “independent Social Democrat” viewpoint, dropped its support for Sweden’s long-held policy of non-alignment, with the newspaper’s chief political editor Anders Lindberg arguing in an editorial on Wednesday morning, that Putin’s invasion of Ukraine now makes membership of the security organisation necessary.

“Vladimir Putin’s war demonstrates that we need to join Nato to guarantee Sweden’s security,” Lindberg, who is often seen as the voice of Social Democrat orthodoxy, wrote in his article.

The editorial came on the day that Finland’s parliament is set to hold a historic, five-hour debate over how to respond to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and increased Russian belligerence, which is expected to lead to it backing a Finnish application to join.

The key will be the position taken by the Social Democrats, the party led by Prime Minister Sanna Marin, and also that taken by the Centre Party, who say they will back Nato membership, if the government does. 

In a sign of how closely the two neighbours’ governments are working together on the issue, Marin chose to come to Stockholm on the day her government published its analysis of the new security situation, holding a joint press conference with Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson.

READ ALSO: How soon could Sweden apply to join Nato?

In his article, Lindberg argued that if Finland, which is closely aligned to Sweden militarily, decides to join Nato, Sweden’s security will be at risk if it does not follow. 

“It’s most likely that Helsinki is now going to apply for membership in Nato, and as a result the last weighty argument from Sweden’s point of view is going to fall,” he wrote. 

Finland, he noted, is “our most important security partner today”. 

“If they decide to join Nato without us, then that deep relationship will be almost impossible to continue, and that will make is significantly weaker,” he said. 

“I have never previously supported Swedish membership of Nato,” he concluded. “On the contrary, I have argued that non-alignment, a strong national defence, and a pragmatic foreign and security policy has worked extremely well. It has kept us out of war and promoted our national interests.”

But he said that Russia’s invasion had created a “security deficit in Northern Europe”.

“When I read the arguments for continued military non-alignment, I cannot see any answers to the question of how we should compensate for this deficit.” 

The debate in Finland’s parliament starts at 1.15pm, Swedish time. 

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MP vows to sink budget if Sweden drops Turkey weapons ban

The Swedish independent MP Amineh Kakabaveh has said she will vote down the government's amendment budget next week if it does not commit to maintaining its ban on selling weapons to Turkey.

MP vows to sink budget if Sweden drops Turkey weapons ban

Kakabaveh, who resigned from the Left Party in 2019, how holds the decisive vote in Sweden’s parliament, and she has been using the leverage this gives her to extract pledges from the government to support the Kurdish autonomous government in northern Syria. 

Turkey’s demand that Sweden ends its weapons ban is one of its key conditions to back Sweden’s bid for Nato membership, so ceding to Kakabaveh’s demand threatens to freeze the country’s Nato talks.  

Kakabaveh told Sweden’s TT newswire that if she did not use her position for the good of the Kurds, it would be tantamount to helping Turkey in its attacks. 

“It would be as if I was sending weapons there which are used against the Kurds,” she said. 

READ ALSO: What’s going on with pensions and Sweden’s budget? 

Sweden’s government hopes to submit an additional amendment budget to parliament next week which, if it wins Kakabaveh’s support, would allow it to pass its budget and honour a deal struck in November with the Left Party to hike monthly payments for the poorest pensioners. 

When Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg came to Sweden on Monday, he singled out dropping the arms ban as one of the “important steps” Sweden was making to overcome Turkey’s objections. 

“I welcome that Sweden has already started to change its counter-terrorism legislation and that Sweden will ensure that the legal framework for arms export will reflect the future status as a Nato member with new commitments to allies,” he said. 

Kakabaveh has now used her position to extract concessions four times: once last July, when parliament voted on whether  to return Stefan Löfven as prime minister, once in November, when Magdalena Andersson was elected PM, once in the run-up to the no-confidence vote in Sweden’s justice minister on June 7th, and now in the run-up to next week’s additional amendment budget vote. 

Sweden’s party system means that unless she finds a party willing to have her as a candidate, she will cease to be an MP after September’s election.