Swedish lawmakers are debating joining NATO as attitudes change

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STOCKHOLM – Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Anderson told her country’s parliament on Monday that she had “seen a historic change in our country’s security policy line” as the country prepares for NATO membership.

“Sweden needs a formal security guarantee that comes with NATO membership,” Anderson said during the parliamentary debate, adding that the country was working closely with neighboring Finland.

The debate is expected to be a formality as lawmakers have a clear majority in favor of joining NATO. Sweden is expected to formally seek membership in the 30-member military alliance after Monday.

Sweden’s move, which has been outside the military alliance since the Napoleonic War, comes after Finland announced on Sunday that it too would like to join NATO in the wake of Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine.

“Sweden is the best protected in NATO,” Anderson said. “Unfortunately, we have no reason to believe that the trend (of Russia’s actions) will reverse in the near future.”

On Sunday, the Swedish Social Democrats shattered the party’s long-standing position that Sweden must remain non-aligned, paving the way for a clear majority for NATO membership in parliament.

Monday’s debate enabled the Social Democratic government to show that there is overwhelming support for joining NATO. Only two of Sweden’s eight smaller, leftist parties oppose it.

In Helsinki, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said Monday that there is “very significant” support in Congress and he hopes for quick ratification, adding that the two Nordic countries would “bring a big deal to the NATO alliance.”

McConnell said the United States’ goal is to do this as soon as possible. He hoped a vote could be held before the August holidays, and he hoped the United States would be “the first to approve.”

‚ÄúRegarding the size of the vote, I think it will be very significant. Not unanimous, but very significant, “said a longtime NATO supporter.

On Sunday, he and Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, John Barasso of Wyoming and John Cornin of Texas stopped in Stockholm and met Anderson, among others. They made a surprise stop in the Ukrainian capital on Saturday to show solidarity in the fight against the Kremlin.

Public opinion in both Sweden and Finland was strongly against joining NATO, but support for membership grew almost overnight after the Ukraine invasion began.

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