Finland and Sweden in talks to join NATO

May 2022
By Gabriela Rosa Hernandez

Spurred on by Russia’s war on Ukraine, Finland and Sweden are in serious talks about applying for NATO membership and are widely expected to join.

Even before the war, Russian President Vladimir Putin had threatened “retaliation” if the two countries joined the Western alliance. But its brutal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has heightened the security concerns of neighboring states. Finland and Sweden are not officially aligned, but have been NATO partners since the mid-1990s.

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused Finland to review its security strategy. I won’t suggest any time frame as to when we’ll make our decision, but I think it will go fairly quickly. In weeks, not months. The security landscape has completely changed,” Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said on April 14, according to Defense News.

Finland’s parliament began debating the possibility of NATO membership on April 21 as its main parliamentary groups voiced support for some form of military alliance in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. .

Finland is expected to make its decision ahead of the two-day NATO summit in Madrid from June 29, Defense News reported.

Although Sweden has been more reluctant, there is also a growing momentum in favor of NATO membership, according to a FinancialTimes April 20 article. Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde said on April 21 that the government wanted to speed up consideration of the NATO issue and would now make its security policy analysis public on May 13 instead of May 31, reported Reuters.

In early April, the Finnish government published its own new report on changes in the security environment. It included an assessment of the effects of Finland’s possible NATO membership and noted that if Finland were to join NATO, it would raise the threshold for the use of military force in the Baltic Sea region. . This, in turn, would increase regional stability.

The report also notes that Finland would be prepared to support other NATO members in an Article 5 scenario, the fundamental commitment to defend other members if attacked. However, this does not mean that Finland is obliged to accept nuclear weapons, permanently host NATO troops or accept NATO military bases on its territory, the report notes.

Just two weeks ago, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson was more cautious in her approach to the subject than her Finnish counterpart. “What we need to do is think carefully about what is in Sweden’s long-term interest and what we need to do to guarantee our national security, our sovereignty and guarantee peace in this new tension and heightened situation,” Andersson said. said April 13. She also said: “We always regard Finnish security as our own,” according to The New York Times.

Before the war in Ukraine, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg noted that “Sweden is a partner with better opportunities. Sweden and Finland are our closest…closest partners. The fact that we work together, that we share information, that we exercise together is something important, and the importance is demonstrated in this situation that we are facing now.

Stoltenberg also declared that all allies would welcome Finland and Sweden into the alliance. “We know they can easily join this alliance if they decide to apply,” he said, according to ABC News on April 12. He even hinted that NATO members might be prepared to give Sweden and Finland security guarantees during the NATO membership application process. .

Finland and Sweden occupy important geostrategic locations and possess the economic stability necessary to fulfill NATO’s commitment that members devote at least 2% of their gross domestic product to defence.

Finland and Sweden joined NATO’s Partnership for Peace program in 1994. Over the years, they have regularly participated in NATO military exercises, such as the Saber Strike series and BALTOPS exercises in the region. from the Baltic Sea. Both nations are also part of the enhanced NATO Response Force, a highly capable multinational force made up of land, sea, air and special operations components that NATO can rapidly deploy when needed, in a additional and subject to national decisions.

In addition, Finland and Sweden have signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Host Nation Support, which obliges them to provide logistical support to NATO forces transiting or located on the territory of Finland or Sweden during of an exercise or a crisis. The memorandum is subject to national decision.

The decision to seriously consider joining NATO is a strong signal that Finland and Sweden may not be fully reassured by the EU’s mutual defense clause in the 2007 Lisbon Treaty. According to the Defense Post Andersson told reporters in early March that Finland and Sweden had written a joint letter to remind other EU member states how seriously the two states take the defense solidarity clause seriously. The Mutual Defense Clause is similar to Article 5 of NATO and requires “other EU countries to come to the aid and support, by all possible means, of a Member State victim of an armed attack”. Andersson said.

Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council, has warned that Russia should take serious steps to guarantee its security if Finland and Sweden become members of NATO, RIA Novosti reported on April 14. land borders of the alliance with the Russian Federation will more than double. Naturally, these borders will have to be reinforced, seriously reinforced, the regrouping of ground forces and air defense, deploy significant naval forces in the waters of the Gulf of Finland,” he said.

Medvedev added: “In this case, there will be no question of a nuclear-free status of the Baltic. The balance must be restored. Until today, Russia has not taken such measures and was not going to do so. If we’re forced, well, “mind, we didn’t offer it,” as the hero of the famous old movie put it.

On the same day, Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov was asked about Medvedev’s remarks and the possibility of stationing nuclear weapons in the Baltic Sea region. “After drawing up Putin’s instructions on strengthening the borders, everything will be discussed at a separate meeting, [after] Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu gives Putin ideas on strengthening Western borders. It takes time,” Peskov said.

Hours later, RIA Novosti quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko as saying that Russia supports diplomatic contacts with Finland and Sweden. On April 20, Maria Zakharova, press secretary of the Russian Foreign Ministry, announced that Russia had warned Finland and Sweden of possible consequences if they became members of NATO, TASS reported.

Neither Finnish nor Swedish officials have specified a timeline as to how long it would take either country to become a NATO member. But the first step is for the aspirant to declare their intention to join the Washington Treaty, according to the recent report from the Finnish government. After that, NATO could invite candidates to enter into membership negotiations and possibly extend a membership action plan. At the end of these negotiations, the candidates must confirm their willingness and ability to join NATO. Then, alliance members must sign and ratify the ascension protocol according to their national procedures.

Once this step has been taken, the allies submit their instruments of ratification to the United States, the official depositary. Finally, the NATO Secretary General invites applicants to accede to the Washington Treaty, and invitees must accept the accession agreement in accordance with their national procedures. With the deposit of the final instrument of accession, the guest becomes a member of NATO.

Martin E. Berry