On March 8, Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson ruled out NATO membership for Sweden. Joining in the current situation would be “destabilizing,” Andersson said.
Now, at the end of April, things look completely different. More and more observers are predicting a change of heart on the part of the prime minister and her social democratic party. In addition to the merciless Russian war of aggression, the constant pressure from the bourgeois opposition in Stockholm, which has long been pushing for NATO membership, and above all the turning point in neighboring Finland, where parliament has long been debating NATO membership and President Sauli Niinistö one, were decisive “gigantic majority” of MPs predicted for it.
Finland and Sweden were always the non-aligned couple in the north. But there is a long-standing agreement between the two to march together on NATO matters. However, the fact that the Finns were so quick to throw themselves into the process, which will probably lead to an application for membership, in view of the war and the 1,300 kilometers of common border with Russia, seemed to have surprised the Swedish government. Perhaps Sweden’s Social Democrats found it a bit more difficult than their Finnish neighbors to throw old certainties overboard, given their country’s 200-year history of neutrality, which is still seen today as a great success story and part of the country’s identity.
But now Stockholm seems to want to follow suit quickly. The Finnish newspaper Iltalehti was the first to report on Tuesday that the Swedish government had asked Finland’s leadership, in the event of the expected positive decision on NATO in Helsinki, to wait a little longer for Sweden so that the application could be submitted jointly. The Swedish newspaper quickdraws confirmed the request.
“Russia is not the neighbor we thought it was”
It could all be a matter of a few weeks, in May things will happen in quick succession. Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin has announced a speech for May 3 in which she will probably make her position on NATO membership public for the first time. Sanna Marin’s sentence, “Russia is not the neighbor we thought it was,” is also one of the most quoted in the Swedish debate. The Finnish decision could come days later. In the week of May 16th there could be an application for membership, wrote Iltalehti citing government circles.
Meanwhile, Sweden is also waiting for a public statement from the Social Democrats and their prime minister, who has so far kept a low profile. The government in Stockholm has now brought forward the presentation of its report on the new security policy situation and the NATO question, from the end of May to May 13: They want to keep up with the Finns, and there are also parliamentary elections in Sweden in September. Magdalena Andersson would also like the NATO issue to be settled as quickly as possible so that it does not provide the opposition with election campaign ammunition.
Shortly before May 13, the Social Democrats want to officially position themselves for the first time. The party has traditionally seen itself as a defender of non-alignment, but the signs are pointing to a change of heart among the Social Democrats as well. Former Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom has already stated that she “tends to say yes”. On Tuesday, social affairs minister Ardalan Shekarabi was the first acting minister to declare NATO as probably the best guarantee for Sweden’s security. The social democratic tabloid Aftonbladet completed the change of course last week: “Putin’s war shows that we must join NATO,” was the headline of the editorial, which explained that the old security order on which Sweden’s non-alignment was based was “before our eyes in Bucha, Kharkiv and Mariupol been bombed”.
A survey by Svenska Dagbladet According to the study, 47 percent of Swedes are now in favor of joining NATO – and only 21 percent are against it. The newspaper also asked those surveyed what their attitude would be in the event of an early Finnish yes to NATO – then the number of supporters would even jump from 47 to 59 percent. “In practice, that’s how it is,” wrote Aftonbladet a few days ago: “If Finland joins but not Sweden, then we will be a small, unprotected country between many NATO countries.”