Swedish parliament takes a ‘decisive step’ toward defense alliance with Finland and NATO membership

A majority of the Swedish parliament favors having the option to join NATO at some point in the future, after the populist Sweden Democrats reversed their earlier opposition to joining the alliance.

The party did not change its view on NATO due to the relative merits of the alliance, but to bring Sweden’s defense policy in line with that of neighboring Finland. It is not a member either, but maintains a “NATO option” stance that could see it join up at a later date.

“We have long advocated entering into a defense alliance with Finland and are now taking a decisive step in that direction,” Sweden Democrats leader Kimmie Akesson told the Aftonbladet Daily.

“With Sweden announcing a so-called NATO option, like Finland, we strengthen security in our immediate region,” he added.

Fellow party member Roger Richthoff told Reuters that parliament’s defense committee would call on the government to adopt the NATO option next week. Sweden’s coalition government, however, does not support the option.

Though Sweden is not a member, its military regularly cooperates with NATO forces. Both Sweden and Finland took part in NATO’s Scandinavian ‘Trident Juncture’ wargames in 2018, and were due to participate in the alliance’s ‘Cold Response’ exercises this March, before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic saw them canceled. As of 2016, Sweden has permitted NATO members to train on its soil, and to deploy there should Sweden be threatened.

The Scandanavian nation has also sent troops to aid NATO missions abroad, deploying soldiers to Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo and Libya. Even NATO itself refers to its relationship with Sweden as “anything but neutral.”

NATO was founded in 1949 as a western military alliance to counter the growing power of the Soviet Union, and now counts 30 states as members. Only six European Union states are not NATO members: Austria, Cyprus, Finland, Ireland, Malta and Sweden.

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