In Sweden and Finland, NATO membership debate is accelerating

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg during a military exercise at Bardufoss base, Norway, March 25, 2022.

A few weeks ago, the leader of the Swedish far right, Jimmie Akesson, refused to hear about joining NATO. And then he made a U-turn on Saturday, April 9. In a newspaper interview Svenska Dagbladet, Sweden’s Democrat boss confirms he is willing to support a Swedish candidacy if Finland decides to join the Atlantic Alliance. To explain his 180 degree turn, he mentions the fact that Helsinki can become a member “soon”

This turnaround was discussed by the party leadership during an urgent meeting on Monday 11 April. At the exit, Aron Emilsson, responsible for foreign policy, indicated that the Democrats of Sweden… “for NATO membership subject to conditions”† He mentioned two: the fact that Finland adheres to this and that the security situation requires it. Because the party’s reservations about the Atlantic Alliance have not disappeared. In particular, they relate to Turkey’s presence among NATO members and to sending young Swedes to fight abroad.

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According to Mr Emilsson, the Democrats of Sweden are in contact with the True Finns† In Helsinki, the extreme right-wing formation has also changed position. On March 30, an internal vote within the group showed that twenty-nine of its deputies were in favor of membership and three against (four abstained and two were absent). A few days earlier, the current party chairman, Riikka Purra, and her predecessor, Jussi Halla-aho, had both expressed support for joining NATO.

Decision “before the summer” in Stockholm

However, it is not only in the ranks of the far right that the lines are moving. On Monday, the Swedish Social Democratic Party announced it would launch an important “security policy dialogue”. with his militants, to see if it was necessary to change the stance taken against membership at Congress in November 2021. Party secretary Tobias Baudin assured that a decision would be made “for the summer”, because then the parliamentary elections, scheduled for 9 September, are approaching and the Social Democrats want to prevent the NATO debate from becoming a parasite on the vote at all costs.

For the right and the far right, the timetable is not ambitious enough. The Social Democratic government, led by Magdalena Andersson, has also come under fire in recent days from critics, accused by the opposition of lack of clarity, as well as from certain newsrooms and security experts. On March 8, Andersson had stated that an accession of Sweden, “As it stands, the situation would further destabilize”† Then, on March 30, on the program “30 minutes” on the SVT channel, she said that she… “Note NATO membership excluded”

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