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No NATO Referendum in Sweden by Sven R. Larson

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No NATO Referendum in Sweden

Finland and Sweden are getting ready to simultaneously file for NATO membership. Finnish newspaper Iltalehti reports on a proposal from the Swedish government that the two countries apply for membership together. 

The paper also quotes Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde as saying that a parliamentary analysis group would publish its assessment of a NATO accession on May 13th. Once their report is available, the Swedish Parliament will be ready to decide on a formal membership application.

Despite the report in the Iltalehti, it remains unclear if the Swedish government will be able to proceed in lockstep with its Finnish neighbor. According to the Swedish newspaper Expressen, the social-democrat government in Stockholm has not yet won approval for NATO membership from its own party organization:

The Social Democrats explained last week through party secretary-general Tobias Baudin that a decision on [a Swedish] NATO membership could be made by the party’s central committee no earlier than May 12th, but more likely May 24th. The party’s parliamentary caucus had a marathon meeting as recently as last Friday [April 22nd] but claimed to not have reached a decision.

On April 19th the largest Swedish social-democrat newspaper, Aftonbladet, changed its editorial view, abandoning its previous opposition to NATO membership. The Dagens Nyheter, a daily newspaper, reports that there is inter-party consensus on NATO membership in the Swedish Parliament. 

It looks increasingly unlikely that the Swedish people will get to voice their opinion. Upon a direct question from the Dagens Nyheter, not one of the eight parties in Parliament is ready to propose a referendum on NATO accession. 

Sweden and Finland approach NATO membership from different points of military strength. While Finland currently has a traditional conscript military, Sweden will face significant investments in order to bring its armed forces up to NATO standards.

Sven R. Larson is a political economist and author. He received a Ph.D. in Economics from Roskilde University, Denmark. Originally from Sweden, he lives in America where for the past 16 years he has worked in politics and public policy. He has written several books, including Democracy or Socialism: The Fateful Question for America in 2024.