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Sweden sets out benefits of NATO as membership bid looms

By Simon Johnson and Johan Ahlander
Sweden's Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist, Foreign Minister Ann Linde and and Sweden's security policy analysis group announce their report during a news conference in Stockholm, Sweden, May 13, 2022. TT News Agency/Henrik Montgomery via REUTERS

Swedish membership in NATO would boost national security and help stabilise the Nordic and Baltic regions, Foreign Minister Ann Linde said on Friday, a day after neighbour Finland said it would seek to join the U.S.-led military alliance without delay.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has forced Sweden - and its closest military partner Finland - to publicly pick sides after remaining outside the Atlantic alliance since it was founded in 1949 to counter the Soviet Union in the Cold War.

Stockholm is widely expected to follow Helsinki's lead and could apply for entry to the 30-nation NATO as early as Monday.

"Swedish NATO membership would raise the threshold for military conflicts and thus have a conflict-preventing effect in northern Europe," Linde told reporters as she presented the conclusions of an all-party security review which examined the pros and cons of NATO membership for Sweden.

"The most important consequence of Swedish membership of NATO would be that Sweden would be a part of NATO's collective security and included in security guarantees according to...Article 5."

Article 5 of NATO's founding treaty states that an attack on any NATO country should be seen as an attack on all.

While Sweden and Finland have close relations with NATO for years and regularly take part in exercises and meetings of its top brass, they are not covered by its security guarantee.

FROM ARCTIC TO BLACK SEA

Finland and Sweden joining NATO would redraw the geopolitical map of northern Europe and create a largely unbroken ribbon of member states facing Russia, stretching from the Arctic to the Black Sea.

On Thursday, Finland's president and prime minister said the country - which shares a 1,300-km (810-mile) border and a difficult past with Russia - must apply to join the NATO military alliance "without delay".

Russia said Finland's bid was a hostile move that posed a threat to its security.

Moscow has previously spoken about potentially stationing nuclear-armed missiles in the Russian territory of Kaliningrad, sandwiched between NATO members Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea, if Finland or Sweden joined the bloc.

"If Sweden chooses to seek NATO membership, there is a risk of a reaction from Russia," Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist said. "Let me state that, in such a case, we are prepared to deal with any counter-response."

On Sunday, Sweden's ruling Social Democrats will decide whether to formally approve joining NATO and are widely expected to drop decades of opposition to membership. Parliament will then debate security issues on Monday.

Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson is expected to call a special cabinet meeting immediately after the debate with an application sent to NATO headquarters by the end of the day, the Expressen daily has reported, citing unnamed sources.

An application would have to be approved by all NATO countries and later, by Sweden's parliament.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday Finland would be "warmly welcomed" and promised a "smooth and swift" accession process, while the U.S. government said it would support a membership bid by Finland and Sweden alike.

(Reporting by Johan Ahlander and Simon Johnson; editing by Niklas Pollard and Mark Heinrich)

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Dive Deeper:
Nato member Turkey hits out at Finland and Sweden membership bids
‘Scandinavian countries are guesthouses for terrorist organisations,’ says the Turkish leader
Turkey sets demands, not opposed to Finland, Sweden NATO bid
NATO expects the Nordic countries’ membership bid will not be hindered by Ankara, whose concerns will be addressed.
Erdoğan: Turkey ‘not positive’ about Sweden and Finland joining Nato
Turkish president says he is following developments as two Nordic nations plan applications
Sweden would need ‘security assurances’ to join NATO, says foreign minister
The UK pledged Wednesday to come to the aid of Sweden and Finland if the two Nordic nations came under…
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Ukraine latest updates: Sweden confirms NATO membership bid
Ukraine news from May 16: Announcement comes day after Finland said it intends to join NATO.
Turkey lays out demands as Finland, Sweden seek NATO membership
Turkey's foreign minister said on Sunday that Sweden and Finland must stop supporting terrorists in their countries, provide clear security…
Get all your news in one place