Sweden’s ruling Social Democratic Party (SAP) granted on Sunday support for the country’s North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) membership application, marking a fundamental change of the party’s position as a staunch opponent of military alignment.
“We Social Democrats believe that the best thing for Sweden’s security is that we join NATO,” Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, also leader of SAP, told a press conference here after the party’s extraordinary meeting.
The Swedish Social Democrats’ change of its stance toward NATO is regarded as historic, as the party’s politics clearly stated that “the military freedom of alliance is a foundation in Sweden’s security policy.”
It has also stated that “Sweden’s partnership with NATO contributes to increased security in our immediate area, while a NATO membership would have the opposite effect.”
Andersson quoted the change of security situation to justify the party’s decision, which paved the way for the country’s widely-speculated NATO membership application early next week.
“The military freedom of alliance has served us well, but it will not serve us well in the future,” said Andersson, pointing to the changed security situation, with the Ukraine crisis in particular.
Andersson emphasized the “invaluable” cooperation with neighboring Finland, which made its official decision to apply for NATO membership earlier in the day.
“If Sweden were to become the only country in the Baltic Sea region outside NATO, we would end up in a vulnerable position,” she said, adding that Sweden must apply together with Finland and “as soon as possible.”
However, the SAP’s decision incurred fierce criticism in Sweden.
“Today’s message is a big disappointment,” said Agnes Hellstrom, chairman of the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society, adding that “the decision is sad and hasty and leads Sweden and the world in the wrong direction.”
“Through this decision, Sweden contributes to making the world more militarized and polarized. A NATO membership does not make Sweden or the world more secure or democratic — rather the opposite,” the society wrote in a statement.
Swedish Social Democratic Youth Union (SSU) also voiced their criticism of the decision.
“Young people are the ones who are most critical of a NATO membership and that is understandable. They are young people who risk being sent to war to defend other countries… Sweden must continue to be a voice and a force for peace,” the union’s chairman Lisa Nabo said in a statement.
“SSU now demands the government that for future generations they guarantee a Sweden free of nuclear weapons, a nuclear-weapon-free zone across the Nordic region and that foreign military bases are never established in Sweden,” the statement added. ■