23 April 2023
Thousands of people have held protests across Sweden to voice their anger at the US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and and the country’s NATO membership bid.
While holding placards and banners that read, “No to NATO”, “NATO’s war will get our children killed for a dollar,” demonstrators around 17 cities called on officials to adhere to the country’s traditional foreign policy path, which involves staying away from military alliances and maintaining neutrality.
“NATO is nothing but the war machine of the United States,” Nellie Puig, a protester, told Xinhua in central Stockholm on Saturday.
“It is not a defensive alliance as they claim. It is an organization that runs the errands of the United States,” Puig added.
In Gothenburg, about 2,500 people came out to protest, which gathered in central Gothenburg on Saturday, and later marched towards Götaplatsen, affecting several public transport lines across the city.
Thousands of residents of the city of Gothenburg on the west coast of Sweden took part in a demonstration on Saturday against the country's NATO membership. pic.twitter.com/UY9RDQK5Ct
— Spriter (@Spriter99880) April 22, 2023
The demonstrators also protested against the ongoing Aurora 23 military exercise, an event where 26,000 participants, mainly from NATO member states, have come together to train with the Swedish armed forces.
The exercise is being called as one of the largest military exercises in Sweden in years that would last till 11 May 2023 and will reinforce the collected capability to counter an armed attack on Sweden.
Authorities have warned citizens to mind the inconvenience, as the exercise is set to cause disruptions to traffic and military staff will be more visible than usual throughout the country, and would even practice on privately owned land.
“Aurora 23 and similar previous exercises prove that Sweden has become increasingly integrated with NATO and Sweden also sells arms to NATO,” Puig said.
Another participant, Krister Holm told Xinhua that Sweden would be better off neutral.
“It would be better for the development of Swedish society, democracy, and culture if we were neutral. NATO is a war alliance that might drag Sweden into a conflict we do not wish to be a part of,” Holm said.
“Being a NATO member will also cost Swedish taxpayers a lot, as the defense budget will double while funding of the educational system and health care is cut,” he added.
Both, Holm and Puig fear that if Sweden is accepted as a member of NATO, nuclear weapons might be stored in Sweden.
“Sweden has traditionally worked for nuclear disarmament,” a protester said, adding that once Sweden becomes a NATO member, “politicians would have to reconsider their position.”
On March, 22, the Swedish parliament, Riksdagen, voted in favor of the country joining NATO.
The request to join NATO, which Sweden, along with neighboring Finland, submitted after the start of the Ukraine-Russia war, was approved by 28 of the 30 members of that alliance.
On March 31, all the members of the military bloc ratified Finland’s application, while Sweden has not yet received the approval of Hungary and Turkey, which pointed out that they will consider Stockholm’s request separately.
The West hopes that Sweden will soon become a member of this organization, and the US has urged Hungary to clear Sweden’s approval before July.
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