‘It was part of the Swedish identity to be neutral. Maybe we were not as neutral as we thought’
Although the Swedish government has applied to become a member of the biggest military alliance in the world, public members have mixed feelings about joining NATO, which will abruptly end decades of the country’s neutral stance amid fears emanating from the Russia-Ukraine war.
Along with Sweden, Finland has also formally applied to join NATO on Wednesday.
Anadolu Agency spoke to public members in Stockholm over the weekend to see how they feel about the sudden urge of their country to become a NATO member.
“I think that it is the right thing to do at the moment since the illegitimate attack from Russia on Ukraine,” Olsa Ericson told Anadolu Agency.
She said Feb. 24, when Russia started its war in Ukraine, changed the rules of engagement and security outlook for Europe completely.
Gordana Drawen, however, had a different perspective.
“I don’t like war; I hate war very much and I love [Russian President Vladimir] Putin. Everybody hates him because they think he is responsible for this war, but it is not true,” she said.
Dragana Goergevic said Sweden was making a “rushed decision” out of fear.
Drawing parallels with Finland, she said Finnish President Sauli Niinisto told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin that it was Russia’s fault that the Nordic nation was joining NATO.
Samuel, who preferred to give his first name only, said there are both positives and negatives to the NATO membership.
The good part is that NATO will shield the country against possible attacks, while the downside is this could trigger a reaction from Russia.
“Our army is not strong enough to protect us from Russia,” he added.
Oliver, who also gave only his first name, said politics wise that he is against NATO’s idea.
However, considering the world’s current situation, he said it could be a step in the right direction, he added.
Inger, another public member, said she doubts the rushed decision.
“Perhaps in the past few years, we have not been as neutral as we thought,” she added.
Some citizens said Sweden’s bid to join NATO could invite the wrath of Russia, which is a nuclear-armed nation.
“[…] Sweden will never cause a threat to Russia, but the thing is if you poke the Russian bear too much, it might react because Putin has totally no regard for any laws of war,” said Simon, who is a street musician told Anadolu Agency.
Another citizen, who preferred not to be named, said he does not think Sweden needs the membership, considering the geographical and geopolitical position of the country.
“For the last 25 years, I have looked at NATO as a positive thing, a beneficial thing, but I don’t really see [any] significant added value for Sweden,” he said.
According to the UN, at least 2,345 people have been killed and 2,919 injured in Ukraine in Russia’s ongoing war, which said the actual figure could be higher.
The UN said that millions of others had been internally displaced or fled to other countries.