The Swedish government has confirmed it intends to apply for membership of Nato, joining neighboring Finland in a similar decision following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to date.
“There is a broad majority in Sweden’s parliament for Sweden to join Nato,” said the prime minister, Magdalena Andersson. “This is the best thing for the security of Sweden and its people … We are leaving one era behind us and entering a new one.”
Andersson told reporters after a parliamentary debate on Monday that Sweden would be “in a vulnerable position” while the application was processed, but that ministers saw no direct military threat from Russia at present.
Before the announcement, Stockholm had received security assurances from key partners, including the US, Britain, Germany, and France, she said, and on Monday Denmark, Norway and Iceland also pledged support, saying they would “assist Finland and Sweden, by all means, necessary” if they were attacked before obtaining Nato membership.
However, the government “can’t exclude that we will be subjected, for example, to disinformation and attempts to scare and divide us”, Andersson said, adding that if its application was approved, Sweden would not want permanent Nato military bases or nuclear weapons on its territory.
The decisions by the two Nordic governments drew an initial response from Moscow.
Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, said the countries “should have no illusions that we will simply put up with it”, calling the move “another grave mistake with far-reaching consequences” and warning that the “general level of military tension will increase”.
The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, later said Moscow did not see Finnish and Swedish Nato membership as a direct threat in itself. “Russia has no problem with these states – none,” Putin said.
“And so in this sense there is no immediate threat to Russia from an expansion of Nato to include these countries,” he said. He warned, however, that deployment of military infrastructure on their territories “would certainly provoke our response”.
The Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, also said Moscow would “follow very carefully what will be the consequences” of the Nordic nations’ move “for our security, which must be ensured in an absolutely unconditional manner”.
This comes after the Finnish government confirmed its intention to join Nato on Sunday, shortly before Andersson’s ruling Social Democrats abandoned decades of opposition to back a Swedish bid for membership, making Monday’s Riksdag debate a formality.
Russia has previously advised both countries against joining Nato, saying such a move would oblige it to “restore military balance” by strengthening its defences in the Baltic Sea region, including by deploying nuclear weapons.