Mar 4, 2022 - World

Historically neutral Sweden and Finland weigh NATO membership

Protesters hold Ukrainian placards and banners during a demonstration to protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, at Sergel's Square

Swedes against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, at Sergel's Square in Stockholm, Sweden. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT News Agency/AFP via Getty Images

A new poll out Friday found for the first time that a majority of Swedes favor joining NATO as Russia's invasion of Ukraine escalates.

Driving the news: 51% of Swedes are in favor of joining NATO, up from 42% in January, according to a poll by Demoskop and commissioned by Aftonbladet newspaper.

  • Swedes in opposition to joining NATO fell from 37% to 27%, the poll found.
  • Sweden and close ally Finland attended Friday's meeting of NATO foreign ministers and will be at all future meetings on Ukraine, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said.
  • "In response to Russia's aggression, we have decided to strengthen our coordination and information-sharing with Finland and Sweden," he added.
  • "Both countries are now taking part in all NATO consultations about the crisis."

State of play: Sweden's Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist said that the poll alone would not prompt entry into NATO.

  • "To change the defense doctrine, that is a very huge decision, so you don't do it overnight and you cannot do it because of opinion polls," Hultqvist said, per Reuters.
  • The Sweden Democrats, however, the third biggest party in parliament, said Friday that it was reviewing its stance on NATO.
  • "We are analyzing the situation now, hour by hour more or less, looking at the NATO issue, looking at other security policy collaborations and what we can do," Aron Emilsson, foreign policy spokesperson for the Sweden Democrats said.

The big picture: Public opinion in Finland, a close ally to Sweden, is also shifting towards greater support of joining NATO.

  • A poll commissioned by Finnish broadcaster YLE found 53% were in favor of Finland joining NATO — the first time a majority expressed support — and 28% were against.
  • The Russian Foreign Ministry last week expressed concern over what it described as efforts by the U.S. and allies to "drag" Finland and Sweden into NATO, warning that Moscow would take action if they joined, AP reports.
  • "I want to be extremely clear: It is Sweden that itself and independently decides on our security policy line," Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said in response.

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