Norway’s far-left Reds Party spoiled the Norwegian Parliament’s otherwise overwhelming support for bids by Sweden and Finland to join NATO. The Reds were the only party to dissent when the issue came up for a vote this week, and its leader was being roundly criticized.
Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre of the Labour Party accused the Reds of failing to show solidarity at a time when Russia has invaded Ukraine and is escalating verbal assaults on the rest of Europe and the West. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine has prompted both Sweden and Finland to end years of neutrality and seek to join NATO to further strengthen Europe’s and their own defense.
Støre has strongly supported both countries and called the Parliament’s vote on Thursday “historic.” He told newspaper Aftenposten that it also marks “an historic shift for Europe,” and opens the way for much stronger defense cooperation among all five Nordic countries.
The Reds spoiled Støre’s hopes for unanimous support for the NATO expansion in Parliament, though. “What the Reds are really saying is that NATO should block the two countries’ membership,” he told Aftenposten. “I think that runs deeply against solidarity.”
When Finland and then Sweden both voted in favour of finally joining NATO in May, they were widely met with open arms and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg seemed confident the application process would proceed quickly. Turkey has since spoiled that, though, and submitted a long list of demands. All current NATO members must approve all new members.
In Norway, only the Reds and the Socialist Left Party (SV) were skeptical, claiming it would increase tensions with Russia, not least in Northern Norway. Even SV, which has long favoured a Nordic military alliance over NATO membership, ultimately supported membership for Sweden and Finland.
That left the Reds alone in voting against it. Reds leader Bjørnar Moxnes was unyielding, reasoning that “in a democracy we can think differently, and land on different responses.” He still thinks that the inclusion of Sweden and Finland in NATO will especially raise tensions between the US and Russia, and the risk of nuclear war.
He found no support among his colleagues in Parliament, with the leader of the Liberal Party even claiming that the Reds’ refusal to support Sweden and Finland in NATO “will go into the history books. It’s like the Reds are slamming the door in the face of Sweden and Finland.”