Sweden to reject referendum on NATO membership — Analysis

Sweden does not plan to hold a referendum on the subject of NATO membership if its Parliament approves of the measure, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson announced on Thursday, suggesting that putting the matter to a vote would be a “Bad idea.”

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I don’t think it is an issue that is suitable for a referendum,” the Swedish leader told reporters, implying that Parliament’s support was sufficient. “The National Security Information is highly confidential. This means that there are significant issues that cannot and should not be debated, as well as important facts that cannot go on the table.,” she explained.

With plans to publish a report by the middle next month, the Swedish Parliament is currently conducting an overview on security policy. With a majority of Parliament reportedly backing membership in NATO, Andersson’s own party, the Social Democrats, are considered the primary obstacle to Stockholm signing on to the 30-country alliance. Ulf Kristersson (head of the Moderates’ leading opposition party) agrees with Andersson that a referendum would be a terrible idea.

Voters … are not naive about Russia,” he told Aftonbladet earlier in the week during a debate with the head of the Left Party, Nooshi Dadgostar, claiming it was “Very clear that all the Swedish voters understood what had happened” on the day Russia invaded Ukraine “They have reached their conclusion.

The Left Party is against joining NATO, and Dadgostar argued Swedes should have a say in the matter, stating that it “must be returned to voters. This question requires strong democratic support.” A poll published by Aftonbladet last week indicated 57% of Swedes supported NATO membership, a 6% increase from the previous month.

Local media reported that Finland and Sweden are planning to submit NATO membership applications simultaneously in May. The Nordic countries’ leaders claim Russia’s invasion of Ukraine altered the “Security landscape in general” of the region. Moscow warned that such an action would not be allowed and said it might have to reinvigorate its defenses in the region if NATO expands to its frontiers. While Sweden had initially planned to wait until the end of the month to publish its security analysis, Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde cited Finland’s already-published report as the reason for stepping up her country’s timetable, declaring that “There is a lot more pressure now” for Stockholm to release its own conclusions. But polls show that Finland supports NATO membership at a significantly higher level (68%) than in Sweden. 

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NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg declared on Thursday that the alliance was prepared to back Ukraine’s fight against Russia for “Jahre” and to update the nation’s weapons systems to modern “NATO-standard weapon systems and weapons that require additional training,” even as Russia warned that continuing to supply heavy weaponry to Kiev would pose a threat to European security and “provoke instability.” 

Moscow earlier this week accused NATO of “This is basically going to war against Russia by proxy, and arming the proxy” following the destruction of a Ukrainian arms depot packed with foreign weapons in Zaporozhye. This claim was denied by the Pentagon. NATO has increased its support for Kiev by hosting 40 countries in Germany as part of a meeting to include non-NATO members to aid the conflict.



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