Majority of Swedes now in favour of joining Nato: poll

A majority of Swedes are in favour of joining Nato, a new poll showed Thursday, as Sweden's ruling party gears up for a debate on whether to abandon the country's military non-alignment.

Majority of Swedes now in favour of joining Nato: poll
Sweden's foreign minister, Ann Linde, holds a press conference with the country's defence minister, Peter Hultqvist on Thursday April 21st. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

The survey, carried out by polling institute Novus, showed that 51 percent of Swedes were in favour of joining the military alliance, the first time the pollster has recorded a majority on the issue and up from 45 percent just a week ago.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sparked a surge in public support for joining Nato. Recent polls by other institutes have previously shown a majority in favour of joining, but Novus said it believed public opinion was now being influenced by the Nato debate underway in neighbouring Finland, where the issue is being mulled by MPs following the publication of a security policy white paper last week.

Many analysts have predicted that Finland will ultimately submit a bid in time for a Nato summit in June.

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin visited her Swedish counterpart Magdalena Andersson last week, signalling that the neighbouring countries, which are both Nato partners but officially “non-aligned”, are moving in unison.

“Swedish opinion in favour of Nato is increasing because they believe it will be done together with Finland and (people) are then more positive to a Swedish membership,” Novus chief executive Torbjorn Sjostrom said in a statement.

If Finland were to join the alliance, 64 percent of Swedes questioned said they were in favour of joining.

Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde said Thursday she wanted to speed up the completion of parliament’s security policy analysis that is meant to guide MP’s discussions.

Linde told broadcaster Sveriges Radio that she wanted it completed by May 13, instead of May 31 as currently planned.

“Finland has already published its analysis and there is strong pressure onus to complete our analysis,” Linde said. Sweden’s ruling Social Democrats said last week they would begin an internal debate on whether Sweden should apply for membership.

The party has historically opposed NATO membership. A reversal of that policy would pave the way for a Swedish bid.

According to newspaper Aftonbladet, sources within the Social Democrats said a “marathon meeting” on NATO was scheduled for Friday, the party’s “first major discussion” on the issue.

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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.