Sweden's ruling party backs joining NATO, paving way for bid

Swedish and NATO flags are seen printed on paper this illustration taken April 13, 2022. Reuters
Sweden's ruling Social Democrats said on Sunday they backed the country joining NATO, abandoning decades of opposition in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and creating a large parliament majority in favour of membership.

With neighbouring Finland already set to hand in its application, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson is now all but certain to launch a formal application within days.

"The party board has at its meeting on May 15, 2022 decided that the party will work toward Sweden applying for membership in NATO," the Social Democrats said in a statement.

Joining NATO was a distant prospect just months ago, but Russia's attack on Ukraine has prompted both Sweden and Finland to rethink their security needs and seek safety in an alliance they stood apart from during the long Cold War.

The war in Ukraine, which Moscow calls a special military operation but which has already killed thousands and displaced millions, shattered long-standing security policies and fueled a wave of public support for NATO membership in both countries.

In Finland, President Sauli Niinisto on Sunday confirmed the country's intentions to apply, saying the region would benefit.

The Social Democrat party also said they were opposed to stationing nuclear weapons or permanent NATO military bases in Sweden.