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Swedish Lawmakers Debate Joining NATO  05/16 06:01


   STOCKHOLM (AP) -- Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson on Monday told 
her country's parliament that she sees "a historic change in our country's 
security policy line" as the country prepares to seek membership of NATO.

   "Sweden needs formal security guarantees that come with membership in NATO," 
Andersson said during a parliamentary debate, adding that the country was 
acting together with neighboring Finland.

   The debate is expected to be a formality as there is a clear majority of 
lawmakers in favor joining NATO. Sweden is expected to formally seek membership 
in the 30-member military alliance later Monday.

   The move in Sweden, which has been outside military alliances since the 
Napoleonic Wars, came after Finland on Sunday announced that it, too, would 
seek to join NATO in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.

   "Sweden is best defended within NATO," Andersson said. "Unfortunately, we 
have no reason to believe that the trend (of Russia's actions) will reverse in 
the foreseeable future."

   On Sunday, the Swedish Social Democrats broke with the party's longstanding 
position that Sweden must remain nonaligned, paving the way for a clear 
majority for NATO membership in Parliament

   The debate on Monday enables the Social Democratic government to demonstrate 
that there is huge support for joining NATO. Out of Sweden's eight parties, 
only two smaller, left-leaning parties oppose it.

   "I can see that there is broad support" for the government's position, 
Andersson said after the three-hour debate in Riksdagen during which she said 
that Sweden should not have nuclear weapons or "permanent bases" on its soil. 
The Scandinavian country has no nuclear weapons of its own.

   In Helsinki, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said Monday that there 
is "very significant" support in the Congress and he expects swift 
ratification, adding that the two Nordic countries will "bring a great deal to 
the NATO alliance."

   "The goal of the United States is to do it as rapidly as possible," 
McConnell said. He hoped a vote could be held before the August recess and 
added that he also hoped that the United States would be "the first to ratify."

   "With regard to the size of the vote, I think it will be very significant. 
Not unanimous, but very significant," the longtime NATO supporter said.

   On Sunday, he and Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, John Barrasso of 
Wyoming and John Cornyn of Texas stopped in Stockholm and met with Andersson 
among others. They made a surprise stop Saturday in Ukraine's capital to 
express solidarity in the fight against the Kremlin.

   Public opinion in both Sweden and Finland had been firmly against joining 
NATO, but support for membership surged almost overnight after the Ukraine 
invasion started.

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