Sweden joins Finland in announcing it wants to become a member of NATOComments
Sweden has announced it wants to become a member of NATO.
It has joined Finland in signalling its intention to sign up to the transatlantic military alliance after Russia's invasion of Ukraine sparked a security rethink.
Magdalena Andersson, Sweden's prime minister, said the move marked a new "era" for the Scandinavian country.
"The government has decided to inform NATO of Sweden's willingness to become a member of the alliance," she told a news conference.
"We are leaving an era to enter a new one," according to the Swedish leader.
Its neighbour Finland will also seek membership. Last week Finland's president and prime minister both urged the country to join "without delay".
The announcement came after a debate in the Riksdagen, or parliament, earlier Monday showed that there is a huge support for joining NATO. Out of Sweden’s eight parties, only two smaller left-leaning parties opposed it.
On Sunday, the Swedish Social Democrats broke with the party’s long-standing position that Sweden must remain nonaligned, paving the way for a clear majority for NATO membership in the parliament.
Public opinion in both Nordic countries was firmly against joining NATO before the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, but support for NATO membership surged quickly in both nations after that.
“The Swedish government’s intent is to apply for NATO membership. A historic day for Sweden," Foreign Minister Ann Linde wrote on Twitter. “With a broad support from political parties in the parliament, the conclusion is that Sweden will stand stronger together with allies in NATO.”
Once a regional military power, Sweden has avoided military alliances since the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Like Finland, it remained neutral throughout the Cold War, but formed closer relations with NATO after the 1991 Soviet collapse.
After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the governments in Finland and Sweden responded by swiftly initiating discussions across political parties about NATO membership and reaching out the US, Britain, Germany and other NATO countries for their support.
Earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia "does not have a problem” with Sweden or Finland over their bids to join NATO. But, he added, Moscow will react to any military expansion in the countries.
Discussing Finland and Sweden, Putin said that Russia “does not have a problem with these states. And therefore in this sense, there is no direct threat to Russia created by the expansion involving these countries, but the expansion of military infrastructure onto this territory will of course give rise to our reaction in response.”
Putin was speaking at a summit in Moscow of the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization, which includes five other ex-Soviet countries.
Alexander Stubb, who served as the Prime Minister of Finland from 2014 to 2015, told Euronews that Moscow's reaction had been "quite moderate".
"It's important to see that Swedish and Finnish defence forces are co-operating very closely on this," Stubb added.
Click on the player above to watch the full interview.