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Swedish lawmakers debate joining NATO

STOCKHOLM (AP) – Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson yesterday told her country’s parliament that she sees “a historic change in our country’s security policy line” as the country prepares to seek membership of NATO.

“Sweden needs formal security guarantees that come with membership in NATO,” Andersson said during a parliamentary debate, adding that the country was acting together with neighbouring Finland.

The debate is expected to be a formality as there is a clear majority of lawmakers in favour joining NATO. Sweden is expected to formally seek membership in the 30-member military
alliance soon.

The move in Sweden came after Finland on Sunday announced that it, too, would seek to join NATO in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

“Sweden is best defended within NATO,” Andersson said. “Unfortunately, we have no reason to believe that the trend (of Russia’s actions) will reverse in the foreseeable future.”

On Sunday, the Swedish Social Democrats broke with the party’s longstanding position that Sweden must remain non-aligned, paving the way for a clear majority for NATO membership in Parliament.

Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson speaks to the press. PHOTO: AP

The debate yesterday enables the Social Democratic government to demonstrate huge support for joining NATO. Out of Sweden’s eight parties, only two smaller, left-leaning parties oppose it.

United States (US) Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said yesterday that there is “very significant” support in the Congress and he expects swift ratification, adding that the two Nordic countries will “bring a great deal to the NATO alliance”.

“The goal of the US is to do it as rapidly as possible,” McConnell said. He hoped a vote could be held before the August recess and that the US would be “the first to ratify”.

“With regard to the size of the vote, I think it will be very significant. Not unanimous, but very significant,” the longtime NATO supporter said.

On Sunday, he and Republican Senators Susan Collins of Maine, John Barrasso of Wyoming and John Cornyn of Texas stopped in Stockholm and met with Andersson. They also made a surprise stop on Saturday in Ukraine’s capital to express support.

Public opinion in both Sweden and Finland had been firmly against joining NATO, but support for membership surged almost overnight after the Ukraine invasion started.