Sweden to speed up security review as Ukraine puts NATO question in spotlight

A decision by Finland to join NATO "will naturally have a big influence on our analysis," said Foreign Minister Ann Linde.

By Simon Johnson, Reuters - April 21, 2022
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Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde speaks to the media on the day of the EU Foreign Ministers meeting addressing the situation in Ukraine, after Russia launched a massive military operation, in Brussels, Belgium, February 25, 2022. (Johanna Geron / Reuters File Photo)

STOCKHOLM — Sweden will speed up its review of security policy, which includes a view on possible NATO membership, with the result to be published in mid-May rather than at the end of that month, Foreign Minister Ann Linde said on Tuesday.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has left Sweden and neighboring Finland — neither of which is a member of NATO — scrambling to react to a more threatening security environment.

“We have agreed that we will bring forward the publication of the report to May 13. That’s roughly two weeks earlier than we have said until now,” Linde told reporters after meeting leaders of Sweden’s other political parties.

“If Finland finally makes this decision (to join NATO), and everything points in that direction … it will naturally have a big influence on our analysis,” she added.

[Growing majority of Swedes back joining NATO, opinion poll shows]

Russia’s war in Ukraine has forced Sweden and Finland to examine whether their deep-rooted reliance on military neutrality is still the best means of ensuring national security.

Sweden’s ruling Social Democrats, who have always opposed NATO membership, are rethinking their position, and the all-party security review could confirm that a majority of parliament backs an application.

Earlier this week, Finland’s parliament expressed support for joining some kind of military alliance and a decision on whether to apply form membership of NATO is expected within weeks.

Finland is Sweden’s closest military ally. If Helsinki goes ahead with an application to join NATO, that would heap pressure on Stockholm to follow suit.

Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto has held discussions with a number of NATO countries to ensure a smooth process should the country decide to apply for membership.

Linde said that Sweden had also undertaken “preparatory work,” in order to make sure that all avenues are open to Sweden. She declined to give further details.

Russia has repeatedly warned of serious consequences if Finland and Sweden join NATO, most recently saying it would respond by deploying nuclear weapons and hypersonic missiles to its Kaliningrad exclave, just 500 kilometers from the Swedish capital.