Majority of Swedes Favour NATO Ahead of Looming Membership Decision

© AP Photo / Sameer NajafizadaSwedish soldiers (file)
Swedish soldiers (file) - Sputnik International, 1920, 12.05.2022
According to the head of the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society, one of the staunchest opponents of joining the North Atlantic alliance, the NATO debate has been skewed and one-sided – to the point of opponents being branded traitors.
As the Nordic country - which at present is non-aligned - appears to be on its way to joining NATO and is on the verge of announcing its formal decision, the proportion of Swedes in favour of the alliance has increased further.
In a fresh survey by pollster Novus, 53 percent argued that Sweden should join NATO, up from 48 percent last week. Almost 23 percent said they are against such a move. When asked whether Sweden should apply for membership if Finland does, 64 percent answered "Yes" and 21 percent "No".
Remarkably, males between the ages 18 and 29 stood out as the group most in opposition to joining NATO and young men and women were generally more hesitant about membership than older age groups.

Males from 18 to 29 were, in fact, perfectly balanced with 43 percent in favour of Sweden joining NATO and 43 percent opposed.

“The case is still that men are equally divided for and against. They stand and weigh, it is not a clear 'No', but a fairly clear 'Well...'”, Novus chief executive Torbjörn Sjöström told national broadcaster SVT.

Sjöström noted a marked contrast with other age groups. In the 30 to 49 age bracket, a clear majority of 51 percent were in favour of joining NATO and this trend continued, with the age group of 65 to 79 being 61 percent in favour.
Sweden’s ruling Social Democrats are expected to decide later this week on whether decades of resisting NATO membership will be overturned and the centuries-old practice of non-alignment abandoned.
The Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society - said to be the world's oldest and Sweden's largest peace organisation - has been one of the staunchest opponents of joining NATO and has seen a 22 percent rise in membership recently.

“Sweden should not apply for membership now in such a vulnerable and frightened time, and I hope that the Social Democrats will come to that conclusion,” its chairwoman Agnes Hellström said to to SVT. “There are several countries that have chosen non-alignment and Sweden has been one of them for 200 years. I believe it is extremely important that there continue to be states and voices that don't contribute to polarisation, and instead remain strong voices for mediation, diplomacy and relaxation in a very heated situation.”

According to Hellström, the NATO debate has been skewed and one-sided. She ventured that the conflict in Ukraine has frightened many and that the overall climate made it difficult for critical voices to emerge.

“To be against NATO membership is more or less akin to being a traitor,” Hellström said.
In recent months, the tone of debate on NATO membership has changed dramatically in both Sweden and Finland, with numerous opinion polls indicating a strong support among both decision-makers and the broad public. Government ministers and top-ranking politicians have advocated joining NATO, a move welcomed by the top brass of the alliance itself.
 Swedish armed forces soldiers attend a rehearsal in front of the Royal Palace in Stockholm, Sweden (File) - Sputnik International, 1920, 08.05.2022
Ex-NATO Head Rasmussen Sees 'Window of Opportunity' For Finland and Sweden to Join the Bloc
Both Finland and Sweden have been neutral for historic reasons, but effectively scrapped their neutrality as they joined the European Union in the Nineties. Since then, both have remained non-aligned in name only, taking part in virtually every NATO overseas operation ranging from former Yugoslavia to Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.
Apart from common operations, both Finland and Sweden maintain increasingly closer ties with the alliance through joint drills and procurement of materiel.
Tensions between NATO and Russia have soared since the 2014 western-backed Euromaidan coup in Ukraine, which toppled the country's democratically elected president, re-aligned the former Soviet republic with the alliance and unleashed a draining war in the Donbass. More recently, Russia's special operation to demilitarise Ukraine has led to massive arms support from NATO to Kiev.
As the alliance could formally add two new members right on Russia’s doorstep, including a 1,300-kilometre border with Finland, Moscow said this move would not bring stability to Europe and pledged to take punitive measures. Furthermore, the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, said both countries will “automatically find themselves on the NATO frontline”, and former Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, said last month that Russia would have “more officially registered foes”.
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