A majority of Swedes are in favour of joining NATO, according to a new poll, as Sweden’s ruling party prepares for a debate on whether to abandon the country’s longstanding neutrality when it comes to military alignment.
The survey, carried out by polling institute Novus, showed 51 percent of Swedes were in favour of joining the Western military alliance, the first time the pollster recorded a majority on the issue, and up from 45 percent just a week ago.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sparked a surge in public support for joining NATO.
Recent polls by other institutes have previously shown a majority in favour of joining, but Novus said it believed public opinion was now being influenced by the NATO debate under way in neighbouring Finland, where the issue is being mulled by legislators following the publication of a security policy white paper last week.
‘Together with Finland’
Many analysts have predicted Finland will ultimately submit a bid in time for a NATO summit in June.
Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin visited her Swedish counterpart Magdalena Andersson last week, signalling the neighbouring countries, which are both NATO partners but officially “non-aligned”, are moving in unison.
“Swedish opinion in favour of NATO is increasing because they believe it will be done together with Finland and [people] are then more positive to a Swedish membership,” Novus Chief Executive Torbjorn Sjostrom said in a statement.
If Finland were to join the military alliance, 64 percent of Swedes questioned said they were in favour of joining, Novus said.
Swedish foreign minister Ann Linde said on Thursday she wanted to speed up the completion of parliament’s security policy analysis meant to guide its members’ discussions.
Linde told broadcaster Sveriges Radio she wanted it completed by May 13, instead of May 31 as currently planned.
“Finland has already published its analysis and there is strong pressure on us to complete our analysis,” Linde said.
Sweden’s ruling Social Democrats said last week they would begin an internal debate on whether Sweden should apply for membership.
The party has historically opposed NATO membership. A reversal of that policy would pave the way for a Swedish bid.
According to newspaper Aftonbladet, sources within the Social Democrats said a “marathon meeting” on NATO was scheduled for Friday, the party’s “first major discussion” on the issue.