NATO: Finland, Sweden move towards possible membership

HELSINKI – European Union nations Finland and Sweden hit key stages Wednesday on their way to NATO membership as the Finnish government released a security report to lawmakers and Sweden’s ruling party began to consider security policy options.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February triggered a wave of support for joining NATO in two Nordic countries that are not traditionally militarily affiliated, with polls showing a majority asked to join the alliance in Finland and NATO supporters in Sweden were clearly outnumbered against the idea.

Finland, a country of 5.5 million people, shares the longest EU border with Russia, 1,340 kilometers (833 miles) long. Sweden has no border with Russia.

For its part, Russia has warned Sweden and Finland not to join NATO, with officials arguing it will not contribute to stability in Europe. Officials said Russia would respond to such a move with retaliatory measures that could have “military and political consequences” for Helsinki and Stockholm. One of the reasons why Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine was because the country refused to promise that it would not join NATO.

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin, speaking Wednesday in Stockholm during a joint press conference with her Swedish counterpart Magdalena Andersson, said Finland was ready to make a decision on NATO “within weeks” rather than a few weeks. months after an extensive debate in the 200-seat Eduskunta legislature. .

Marin stressed that Finland and Sweden, two Nordic neighbors with close economic, political and military ties, will make independent decisions about their security policy arrangements. , including whether or not to join NATO.

“But we do it with the clear understanding that our choices will affect not only ourselves but our neighbours,” Marin said, adding that she would like to see both Finland and Sweden become NATO members.

Andersson said Sweden and Finland would maintain “a very close dialogue and have a very frank and honest discussion” in the coming weeks about their respective countries’ options for NATO.

Finnish experts say the only real option for NATO membership could be enhanced bilateral military cooperation with the United States and Nordic NATO member Norway.

Marin and Andersson lead the ruling Social Democratic Parties in their respective countries. The parties are expected to publish NATO’s position in early May and late May. Parliaments in both countries are ready to decide on the final issue – which is likely to happen in Finland by the end of the month. May and a little later in Sweden.

Complicating things in Sweden is the general election in September, which is likely to be dominated by the NATO issue.

In Finland, President Sauli Niinisto said he was confident that his country’s decision on NATO would be ready ahead of the June 29-30 NATO summit in Madrid, Spain.

On Wednesday, the Finnish government issued a much-awaited report on changes in Finland’s security environment that lawmakers will begin debating after the Easter break. The report covers the pros and cons of Finland’s possible NATO membership, focusing on supply threats, economic influence, cybersecurity and hydrid threats.

“The war started by Russia endangers security and stability in the whole of Europe,” Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said in presenting the report. “Russia’s attack on Ukraine will have a lasting impact on our own security environment. Confidence in Russia has plummeted.”

Andersson said Wednesday that the Swedish government is conducting an analysis of the security environment with all parties in the 349-seat Riksdag legislature. She said the report is due May 31 but could be completed earlier. In addition, Andersson’s Social Democrats have begun their own assessment of Sweden’s security environment.

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