The Swedish government has announced that it will formally apply to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson made the announcement after an extraordinary meeting of the Scandinavian country's executive and after consultation with the national parliament.
Sweden thus officially joins Finland's already confirmed position on its desire to join NATO in the face of the Russian threat in the Baltic Sea area following the invasion of Ukraine. Sweden thus breaks with a two-century-old policy of non-alignment with any bloc and decides to join the Atlantic Alliance for "security" reasons.
"The Swedish government has decided that Sweden should join NATO," Magdalena Andersson told a press conference after the government received the support of the main political parties in parliament over concerns about the war in Ukraine, given that Andersson's Social Democratic party is in a minority in government.
"The government's assessment is that NATO membership is the best way to protect Sweden's security in light of the fundamentally changed security environment following Russia's invasion of Ukraine," the Swedish government said in an official statement.
"The best thing for the security of Sweden and Swedes is to join NATO and to do so together with Finland," the prime minister was quoted as saying by EFE news agency.
When asked exactly on what day the country would submit its application, she said it could happen this week, adding that it must be done in coordination with Finland.
Given the current scenario, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that his country has no problem with either Finland or Sweden and that joining NATO will not create a threat, although it will provoke a response. "Russia will not like Sweden and Finland joining NATO. We have to be prepared for a difficult few months," said Ulf Kristersson, Sweden's conservative opposition leader.
"When it comes to NATO expansion, including through new alliance members Finland, Sweden, Russia has no problems with these states. Therefore, in this sense, expansion at the expense of these countries does not pose a direct threat to Russia," Putin said at the CSTO summit in Moscow on Monday, as reported by CNN. In any case, Vladimir Putin did say that this Swedish and Finnish decision is a "mistake".
Referring to the Finnish case, the Russian president stressed that 'the renunciation of the traditional policy of military neutrality would be wrong, as there is no threat to Finland's security', as the Kremlin reported in a statement. He stressed that Helsinki's change of course "may negatively influence Russian-Finnish relations, which for many years were characterised by a spirit of good neighbourliness and cooperation between partners, and had a mutually beneficial character".
The Swedish government also decided to adopt a proposal that will enable Sweden to receive military support from all EU and NATO countries for the duration of the ratification process. "Sweden will be in a vulnerable situation during the time of our application," said Magdalena Andersson, noting that Sweden is entering a "new era" in terms of its status and geopolitical position.
"We hope that accession will not take more than a year," said Magdalena Andersson. Although there are doubts because the entry of any country into the Atlantic Alliance requires the ratification of the 30 NATO members, Turkey, a very important member of the organisation as it is the second most important in terms of the size of its army, has already announced that it intends to oppose the entry of Sweden and Finland into the organisation because the Eurasian country negatively criticises these nations for sheltering and supporting certain Kurdish groups, which Turkey describes as terrorists.