Sweden Prepares to Join Finland for NATO Membership

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STOCKHOLM (AP) — Sweden has decided to follow its neighbor Finland and apply for NATO membership, ending more than 200 years of military non-alignment. Russian invasion of Ukraineofficials said Monday.

Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, in her speech to lawmakers in the Swedish capital, described it as “a historic change in our country’s security policy”.

“Sweden needs the official security guarantees that come with NATO membership,” Andersson said. the country was acting together with Finlandwhose government announced on Sunday He would try to join the alliance.

Andersson was expected to formally announce the Swedish government’s decision late Monday, along with opposition leader Ulf Kristersson.

The move was essentially a completed deal, after Andersson’s Social Democratic Party abandoned its longstanding opposition to NATO membership on Sunday, giving those in favor a clear majority in Parliament.

“The Swedish government’s intention is to apply for NATO membership. It’s a historic day for Sweden,” Foreign Minister Ann Linde wrote on Twitter. “With broad support from political parties in parliament, it is concluded that Sweden will stand stronger together with allies in NATO.”

Sweden, once a regional military power, has avoided military alliances since the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Like Finland, it remained neutral throughout the Cold War, but formed closer ties with NATO after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Public opinion in both countries was firmly against joining NATO until the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, after which the polls changed dramatically in favor of membership.

Governments in Finland and Sweden responded by quickly starting discussions between political parties about NATO membership and reaching out to the US, UK, Germany and other NATO countries for their support.

In Helsinki, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said on Monday there was “very significant” support in Congress and that he expects swift ratification. He said he hoped a vote could be held before the August break.

Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson speaks in Stockholm on Monday, 16 May 2022, during the parliamentary debate on Sweden’s application for NATO membership. (via AP Henrik Montgomery/TT News Agency)

The Kremlin has repeatedly warned that this move would have destabilizing consequences for security in Europe.

Russian President Vladimir Putin He said on Monday Moscow “has no problem” with Sweden or Finland applying for NATO membership, but “expanding military infrastructure to this region will of course increase our response”.

Only the small Left and Green parties in the Swedish Parliament objected to the pursuit of NATO membership.

Andersson said that Sweden would reject nuclear weapons or permanent NATO bases on its territory – with neighboring Norway and Denmark coming back to the alliance’s World War II alliance. It is similar to the conditions he insists were set up after World War II.

While NATO officials have expressed hope for a speedy ratification process, all 30 current NATO members must agree to let Finland and Sweden through the door. Turkey made some objections last week, accusing the two countries of supporting Kurdish militants and others that Turkey considers terrorists.

Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist told public broadcaster SVT that a Swedish delegation will be sent to Ankara to discuss the issue.

___ Jan M. Olsen from Copenhagen, Denmark contributed to this report.

Follow the AP’s war news at: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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