In the immediate aftermath of Finland deciding to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, Sweden appears to have discovered the virtues of membership. The government in Stockholm will this week seek broad support for an application to join Nato. Towards that end, Prime Minister Magdalena Anderson has let it be known over the weekend that her ruling party has dropped its long-standing opposition to membership in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It would not be off the mark to recall that joining Nato was a distant prospect just a few months ago. Russia’s attack on its neighbour has prompted both Sweden and Fin- land to review their security needs and seek safety in the military alliance.
The war in Ukraine has shattered long-standing security policies, stoking waves of public support in both countries for Nato membership. Ms Anderson now believes that Nato membership is “the best thing for Sweden and the Swedish people”. While “non-alignment has served us well, our conclusion is that it will not serve us as well in the future”. Politically, the Swedish leader appears to be on a favourable wicket.
Not the least because those who support join- ing the alliance will now command a broad majority in Sweden’s Riksdag. Much of the Opposition is already in favour of membership in the entity, and a formal application by Ms Anderson’s minority government will follow. In Finland, President Sauli Ninisto confirmed the country’s signal of intent to apply, saying that the region will benefit. “We get security and we also extend it through the Baltic Sea region and the entire alliance”.
At peace since the days of the Napoleonic wars, Sweden had been more reluctant than Finland to abjure non-alignment. Sweden, it bears recalling, had fought the Soviet Union in the 20th century. Popular support for Sweden’s entry has risen to more than 60 per cent in the country ~ up from 40 per cent before the war.
A membership application will mark the start of a tense wait; it takes months to be ratified by all Nato members. Turkey has already articulated its objections, though Nato and the White House have said they are confident that security concerns can be addressed in the interim. As a Nato member, Turkey can veto new members. Small wonder that Britain’s foreign secretary, Liz Truss, urged Nato allies on Sunday to move fast as they pursue the essay towards integrating new members. President Ninisto of Finland has expressed his readiness to hold talks with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, over the latter’s concerns. Both Finland and Sweden are already Nato partners, having taken part in allied exercises. Both have jettisoned strict neutrality in terms of joining the European Union together in 1995. For all that, both countries firmly believe that peace is best kept by not publicly choosing sides. But wartime compulsions can be very different.