Sweden’s ruling Social Democratic party has endorsed Stockholm applying for a NATO membership, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said on Sunday.
“Today the Social Democratic party has concluded that Sweden should join NATO,” Andersson said. According to Reuters, the Social Democrats had opposed joining NATO for decades and favored the country’s historic non-alignment, which kept Sweden out of both world wars.
“Our 200-year long-standing policy of military non-alignment has served Sweden well, but the question at hand is whether military non-alignment will keep serving us well,” Andersson said.
The Swedish leader agreed with her party and said the “best thing” for the people of Sweden is to join the alliance. “We believe Sweden needs the formal security guarantees that come with membership in NATO,” she said.
Also on Sunday, the leaders of Finland reaffirmed that Helsinki plans to apply to NATO and officially announced Helsinki’s intention to join the alliance. The Finnish parliament is expected to approve the move in the coming days.
Finland shares an over 800-mile border with Russia, and Russian officials have warned if Helsinki joins NATO, Moscow would deploy more forces to the region. Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said Sunday that he spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin about his plans to join NATO.
Niinisto said the Russian leader took the news calmly. “He confirmed that he thinks it’s a mistake. We are not threatening you. Altogether, the discussion was very, could I say, calm and cool,” Niinisto said.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed pacts with both Finland and Sweden promising to come to their defense if they are attacked during the NATO application period. Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde had previously said that the US has given Stockholm “assurances” that it would respond if Sweden is attacked during the application process, but said they were not as strong as NATO-style security guarantees.
Turkey has expressed some opposition to Finland and Sweden joining NATO over their alleged support for the PKK, a Kurdish militant group Ankara considers a terrorist organization. But Secretary of State Antony Blinken and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Sunday that they don’t expect Turkey to block their bid for membership.