On Thursday, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson rejected the idea of holding a referendum on the country’s potential NATO membership, calling it a “bad idea.”
Andersson’s comments were made in response to a call for a referendum from Sweden’s opposition Left Party. “This … has to go back to the voters, there has to be very strong democratic support in this question,” Left Party leader Nooshi Dadgostar said earlier this week.
Andersson argued that Swedes shouldn’t vote on the issue since it’s a matter of national security. “I don’t think it is an issue that is suitable for a referendum,” she said. “There is a lot of information about national security that is confidential, so there are important issues in such a referendum that cannot be discussed and important facts that cannot be put on the table.”
The majority of Swedish lawmakers favor applying to NATO, and the parliament is expected to recommend the move after concluding a security policy review. Finland is also considering joining the military alliance, and according to media reports from both countries, they are expected to apply together sometime in mid-May.
Also on Thursday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance would welcome the two countries. “If they decide to apply, Finland and Sweden will be warmly welcomed, and I expect that process to go quickly,” he said.
Stoltenberg also said that the two countries could expect some protection from NATO during the application process. He said there are “ways to bridge that interim period in a way which is good enough and works for both Finland and Sweden.”
If the two Scandanavian countries enter NATO, it will greatly escalate tensions with Russia in the region. Finland shares an over 800-mile border with Russia, which Russian officials have said will need to be reinforced if Helsinki joins the alliance.