Majority of Swedes in favour of joining NATO -poll

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STOCKHOLM, (Reuters) – A majority of Swedes are in favour of joining NATO, a poll showed , with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine spurring a rapid shift in attitudes in a country long known for neutrality.

Sweden has not been in a war since 1814 and has built its foreign policy on “non-participation in military alliances.” It remained neutral throughout World War Two even as neighbouring Nordic countries were invaded, and during the Cold War.

A poll by Demoskop and commissioned by Aftonbladet newspaper showed 51% of Swedes are now in favour of NATO, up from 42% in January. People against joining fell to 27% from 37%. It’s the first time such a poll has shown a majority in favour.

The shift echoes that in close ally and NATO non-member Finland, where the head of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs described Russia’s attack on Ukraine as a wake-up call and “Europe’s 9/11 for Finns.” 

Sweden’s ruling Social Democrats have so far resisted calls from the right-of-centre opposition to join NATO, saying non-participation in military alliances serves Sweden’s interests best.

Even so, Sweden took the decision this month to send weapons to Ukraine, the first time since 1939 Sweden sent weapons to a country at war.

Sweden and Finland already have very close cooperation with NATO and have been invited to recent summits. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in January the two countries could join the alliance “very quickly” if they decided to apply for membership.

Photo – Part of a 160-man combat team from the Swedish Army’s Skaraborg Armoured Regiment arrives at Visby harbor for a military maneuver on the island of Gotland. EPA/SOREN ANDERSSON

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