Sweden to join Finland in seeking NATO membership

Sweden to join Finland in seeking NATO membership

Sweden s prime minister announced Monday that Sweden will join Finland in seeking NATO membership in the wake of Russia s invasion of Ukraine, a historic shift that comes after more than 200 years of military non-alignment in the Nordic country.

The move, which is likely to upset the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin, came after Finland announced on Sunday that it would join the 30 country military alliance.

Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said it was a historic change in our country's security policy as she addressed lawmakers in the Swedish capital.

She said that we will inform NATO that we want to become a member of the alliance. Sweden needs formal security guarantees that come with membership in NATO. Andersson said that Sweden was partnering with Finland, whose government announced on Sunday that it would try to join the alliance.

After a debate in the Riksdagen, or parliament, the announcement showed that there is a huge support for joining NATO. Only two smaller left-leaning parties opposed it out of Sweden's eight parties.

On Sunday, the Swedish Social Democrats broke with the party's longstanding position that Sweden must remain nonaligned, paving the way for a clear majority for NATO membership in the parliament.

The Swedish government intends to apply for NATO membership. Foreign Minister Ann Linde wrote on Twitter that Sweden had a historic day. With a broad support from the political parties in the parliament, the conclusion is that Sweden will stand stronger together with allies in NATO. Sweden avoided military alliances after the end of the Napoleonic Wars when it became a regional military power. Like Finland, it remained neutral throughout the Cold War but formed closer relations with NATO after the Soviet collapse in 1991.

After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the governments in Finland and Sweden responded by swiftly initiating talks with political parties about NATO membership, and reaching out to the U.S. Britain, Germany, and other NATO countries for their support.

The Kremlin warned that the move would have destabilizing consequences for Europe's security.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday that Moscow did not have a problem with Sweden or Finland as they applied for NATO membership, but that the expansion of military infrastructure onto this territory will give rise to our reaction in response. In Helsinki, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said Monday that there is very significant support in the Congress and he expects swift ratification. He said he hoped a vote could be held before the August recess.

Only the small left and Green parties objected to the idea of NATO membership in the Swedish Parliament.

Andersson said Sweden would refuse nuclear weapons or permanent NATO bases on its soil - similar to the conditions Norway and Denmark insisted on when the alliance was formed after World War II.

All 30 current NATO members must agree to let Finland and Sweden in the door, even though they have expressed hopes for a quick ratification process. Turkey accused the two countries of supporting Kurdish militants and others that Turkey considers to be terrorists.

Sweden's defense minister Peter Hultqvist told the public broadcaster SVT that a Swedish delegation would be sent to Ankara to discuss the issue.