Sweden’s Social Democrats kick off ‘marathon meeting’ on Nato membership

Sweden's Social Democrats are holding a "marathon meeting" this Friday on whether to join the Nato security alliance. The party's parliamentary group is joining its main leadership committee to thrash out the contentious issue.

Sweden's Social Democrats kick off 'marathon meeting' on Nato membership
Social Democrat party secretary Tobias Baudin arrives at the "marathon meeting" on Nato on Friday. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

“The is the first big discussion in the party,” a source told the Aftonbladet newspaper, which was the first to report on the meeting on Thursday.  

The meeting, which will run from 9am to 3pm, marks the official start of a process many commentators see as designed to build support within the party ahead of a shift in policy in favour of a Nato application.

READ ALSO: The likely timetable for how Sweden could join Nato

Ahead of the meeting, climate minister Annika Strandhäll, who chairs the party’s women’s organisation, Social Democratic Women in Sweden, said that the party needed to reexamine its long-held policy of non-alignment in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

“Social Democratic Women in Sweden has a long history of working for peace and disarmament,” she told TT. “We have a decision of the Social Democrat’s annual conference which states clearly that we in Sweden should be non-aligned and not apply to join Nato.

But when the security situation changes, as has happened with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, she said, it was the Social Democratic Women in Sweden’s responsibility to once again debate the membership issue. 

Social Democratic Women in Sweden, known in Sweden as S-Kvinnor, is seen by party watchers as one of the likely pockets of resistance to Nato membership. 

READ ALSO: Why isn’t Sweden part of the Nato security alliance?

At the same time, the party has appointed some of its most heavyweight figures, including the former foreign minister, Margot Wallström, the current foreign minister, Ann Linde, and Sweden’s defence minister, Peter Hultqvist, to take leading roles in the discussion within the party over joining Nato. 

The Social Democrats’ Secretary-General, Tobias Baudin, told TT that leading ministers and former ministers would lead a series of digital meetings with party members on May 9th, May 10th, and May 12th. 

“We have now decided on a number of speakers, people who will hold discussions with each of our party districts,” he told TT. 

Among those meeting party districts will be Foreign Minister Ann Linde, Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist, Justice Minister Morgan Johansson, Aid Minister Mathilda Ernkrans, and EU Minister Hans Dahlgren.

Margot Wallström, Sweden’s former foreign minister, will also lead discussions. 

“They have been selected because they are central representatives of the party who have a strong legitimacy, respect and confidence within our party, but also because they have good knowledge on this issue,” Baudin told the newswire.

He said that the discussions would lead off with a broad analysis of security and foreign policy issues, and would also cover both the advantages and disadvantages of Nato membership. 

“Most of all, they need to make sure that we have a good dialogue with the local boards of each of our party districts because these are the discussions that need to be there as a strong foundation if we need to take a decision later,” he said. 

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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.