The Swedish government’s line on military non-alignment remains the same, but now even the defense minister is talking about the importance of the NATO debate. The former foreign minister was already approaching membership in his thoughts.
In Sweden The NATO debate took on new shades over the weekend.
On Sunday, representatives of all parliamentary parties gathered at the Swedish Broadcasting Corporation’s TV studio for a two-hour debate on security policy and NATO.
The parties’ positions on NATO remain the same, but the ruling Social Democrats can now be seen as more open to discussion.
Minister of Defense Peter Hultqvist did state, in its traditional way, that the government’s line is military non-alignment, but added that it is now good to have an open debate on the subject without being sharply locked in to a particular position.
The former Social Democratic Foreign Minister also talks about a possible change in the party’s line Margot Wallström interview on Sunday at Dagens Nyheter.
According to Foreign Minister Wallström, who served as Foreign Minister from 2014 to 2019, “non-alignment has served Sweden well” and there are still many good reasons to stay outside NATO, but still his position on NATO had changed. March 8 Wallström wrote in Aftonbladetthat Sweden should not change its line, but now it would be ready for change if Finland shows the way.
“I think we have to go at the same pace as Finland. And if Finland goes, maybe we have to go too, ”Wallström said in an interview, adding:
“I don’t have to think of it as a good idea, but it may be a reality we have to deal with.”
The former foreign minister also emphasized the need for a major debate on membership, in which it must be made clear to the Swedes what the consequences of membership would be.
For it Peter Hultqvist also spoke on Sunday. The Minister of Defense wants the potential risks associated with membership to be taken into account in the NATO debate.
“Will it escalate this conflict we are now in Europe,” he asked.
Among the risks, the Minister of Defense highlighted the potential cyber attacks, sabotage and “some degree” military attack on Sweden.
According to Hultqvist, Swedish parties must now openly discuss the various options: NATO membership, co-operation with Finland, co-operation with the United States and the risks associated with membership. After that, it’s time for decisions.
In Sweden these inter-party discussions are already under way, as in Finland.
Sweden has a moderate coalition in favor of NATO membership, the Center Party, the Liberal Party and the Christian Democrats. The Social Democrats, the Left Party and the Environment Party are opposed.
The Swedish Democrats, on the other hand, say that they may turn to membership if the security situation deteriorates or if Finland applies for membership.
However, based on the TV debate on Sunday, it can be said that all parties now want to discuss NATO in a way that could lead to changes in positions.
Many party leaders have compared the discussions between Swedish parties to the reporting process launched by Finland.
In Finland, the report is expected to be completed in the coming weeks or “during the spring”; in Sweden, the government has set a deadline of the end of May. In this way, Sweden would be able to take into account the conclusions of Finland’s report in its own deliberations.
Finland’s influence is also reflected in the opinion of the people.
Last week in Sweden an opinion poll was publishedin which the Swedes were separately asked to comment on NATO membership in the event that Finland applied for membership.
63% of Swedes would like to go to NATO with Finland. 18 per cent would not want to join NATO with Finland, and 19 per cent could not say their position.
Read more: What would it mean if Finland and Sweden made different solutions to the NATO question? The situation would be “very awkward,” says the Swedish expert
Finland was also strongly present at the Swedish Broadcasting Corporation’s TV talk on Sunday. Director of the European Center of Expertise for Combating Hybrid Threats interviewed in the program Teija Tiilikainen considered it possible that Finland would submit a NATO application before the summer.
Chairman of the Moderate Coalition Ulf Kristersson has said that Sweden should apply for membership with Finland already in the spring.
According to Tiilikainen, Sweden’s line towards NATO is important to Finland, but Sweden’s non-NATO membership would not prevent Finland from applying for membership.
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