The leader of the Sweden Democrats says that he will advocate joining the US-led bloc if neighboring Finland continues to become a member
A central opposition party in Sweden will reportedly try to change its attitude to whether the country should join NATO, if the neighboring country Finland applies for membership. Such a move would potentially pave the way for legislation to end the country’s long history of military neutrality.
That is what the Sweden Democrats’ leader Jimmie Åkesson tells Swedish newspaper Swedish daily newspaper on Saturday that he is considering the policy change in light of Russia’s attack on Ukraine. If Finland tries to join the US-led bloc, he said he would recommend that his party supporters do the same.
In such a case, Åkesson explained: “Then my ambition is to go to the party council with a request that we change. What has changed now is that Finland is very clearly moving towards a NATO membership, and there are many indications that this can happen within a “The future, and the fact that Ukraine, which is not a member of NATO, is completely alone, has made me turn around.”
The right-wing Sweden Democrats are the country’s second largest opposition party, and a change in its stance towards NATO would probably create a parliamentary majority to join the bloc. Most residents of Sweden and Finland have historically opposed joining NATO, but opinion polls show that public opinion has changed dramatically since Russia began its military operation in Ukraine in February.
The Finnish government is scheduled to give the country’s parliament a review of possible NATO membership later this month. Sweden and Finland would probably be welcomed in a “relatively quick way” if they choose to apply for membership, said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg last week.
Despite being EU members, Sweden and Finland have remained outside the US-led military organization. Sweden has avoided war since 1814, a generation after the last of its costly battles with Russia. Finland shares a land border of 1,340 kilometers (832 miles) with Russia and has maintained its neutrality since the end of World War II.
While the Ukraine crisis has prompted Sweden and Finland to reconsider their NATO status, joining the alliance may create a greater risk of conflict with Russia, rather than less. NATO undermined Russia’s national security when it broke promises to expand eastward after the end of the Cold War in 1991, Moscow has claimed.
Ukraine’s attempts to join the alliance exacerbated these security concerns and contributed to the decision to invade. NATO has already expanded to 30 members from 16 since the end of the Cold War, extending its reach to Russia’s threshold.