“I can’t say exactly when the application will be sent in, but the decision is going to be taken today,” Peter Hultqvist told state broadcaster SVT.
The government’s meeting is likely to take place in the afternoon, after Sweden’s parliament has held a debate on Nato membership, and after Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö has made a speech to the parliament titled “a responsible, strong and stable North”.
Hultqvist, who as recently as the Social Democrat congress in November said that “so long as I am defence minister, Sweden will never join Nato”, joked in the interview that he had shifted his view “on April 11th, at 8am in the morning”.
“I was sitting together with several others, and I thought, ‘so now I have to come to a decision’, so I wrote it down on a piece of paper,” he told the interviewers.
He said that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, together with its attempt in December to dictate which alliances Finland and Sweden should be permitted to make, had “changed the whole scenario”, and that when it became clear that Finland was going to join Nato, Sweden had been left with little choice.
Sweden, Hultqvist explained, had over the last decade developed much of its defence planning jointly with Finland, and that if Finland had joined Nato and Sweden had not, “an important part of what we had built up would have disappeared”, leaving Sweden “exposed”.
Hultqvist played down the threat to Sweden’s application from Turkey, which on Friday raised objections, saying Sweden would send a group of civil servants and diplomats to Turkey to smooth over objections.
“Firstly, from [Nato Secretary-General Jens] Stoltenberg’s side, he says that Turkey has not blocked the process,” he said. “and we are going to send a group of civil servants who are going to carry out a discussion and have a dialogue with Turkey, so then we’ll see how the issue can be solved and what the discussion is actually about.”
He said that the signals Sweden had had so far from Nato indicated that there was broad and unanimous support for Sweden and Finland joining the alliance.