Critics of the agreement suggest that the country is simply attempting to enter the North Atlantic Treaty through the back door. Earlier, Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist of the ruling Social Democratic Party, an ardent supporter of stronger ties with NATO, dismissed such opinions, calling them the "undergrowth of the debate." Hultqvist is also known for brushing aside the public's concern regarding NATO's eventual deployment of nuclear weapons. "It is not Moscow that governs Sweden's security policy," Hultqvist said, as quoted by Svenska Dagbladet.
"International security must rest on international law, cooperation and a strong global regulatory framework under the UN leadership. The Left is strongly critical of how NATO struggles to take over a larger role at the expense of the United Nations. Instead of contributing troops to the EU's and NATO's forces, Sweden should prioritize enhancing the UN's peacekeeping efforts," Stig Henriksson of the Left Party wrote in an opinion piece in Göteborgs-Posten.
"Future NATO forces stationed on Swedish territory would only increase the tensions and thus the risk of war in our region," Stig Henriksson wrote.
Meanwhile, the NGO No to NATO has been gathering signatures to stop the controversial agreement and organizing rallies advocating non-alignment. A demonstration in central Stockholm on Saturday gathered thousands of campaigners, including high-profile politicians such as former Defense Minister Thage Petterson, a notable opponent of NATO.
Texten till det tal som Thage G. Peterson höll på Sergels Torg den 21 maj https://t.co/ydMMOojHrl … pic.twitter.com/tHKUydXBY7— Nej till NATO (@NejtillNATO) May 22, 2016
"The fall of the Berlin Wall kindled hopes that we would no longer worry about a new war in Europe. One lesson we drew from the Cold War was that Sweden strengthened peace in Europe by staying outside of NATO. Now, tensions in Europe have increased, which is not something we dreamt about. Instead, we dreamt of peace and detente," the former Social Democratic Defense Minister told the audience.
Petterson argued that Sweden's continuous involvement with NATO would only increase tension in Europe, whereas the much-debated Host Country Agreement could serve as a springboard to full membership.
Nej till NATO:s demonstration mot Värdlandsavtal på Sergels torg. Det lockade mellan 1 000 till 2 000. pic.twitter.com/wNEy44501v— Nej till NATO (@NejtillNATO) May 21, 2016
Last week, NATO's secretary general Jens Stoltenberg called the formally still neutral Finland and Sweden "NATO's closest allies," stressing the importance of the two countries' contribution to the security of the Baltic Sea Region.
In July, Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist is set to join the NATO Summit in Warsaw. The idea was obviously to show that Sweden is delivering according to plan. Now there will be no fun trip to Poland.