Finland’s and Sweden’s accession to NATO in five questions and answers

Why are Sweden and Finland not members of NATO?

Both countries adopted an “non-aligned” position in World War II, although both had military defense forces toward Russia.

Finland, which has 1,300 kilometers of border with Russia, gained independence from this country in 1917 and fought two wars against its neighbor during World War II, where it lost territories. In 1948, it signed an agreement with Russia on friendship, cooperation, and mutual assistance, which strengthened some degree of economic and political dependence, separating it militarily from Western Europe.

At the end of the Cold War and the break-up of the Soviet Union, Finland rose from the shadow of Russia and took military intimidation and friendly relations with Moscow to maintain peace.

Sweden, for its part, has not waged war for 200 years, and post-war foreign policy has focused on international support for democracy, multilateral dialogue and nuclear disarmament. The country did not want to invest in military defense, but it reserves enough to be able to delay Russia’s progress in the event of an attack until aid arrives.

What are the benefits of joining NATO?

NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, is a union of 30 countries united by a “collective defense agreement”, Article 5 of which defines an attack on one member country as an attack on all.

Joining the Atlantic Alliance puts Sweden and Finland under the umbrella of Article 5, which provides a collective guarantee against all external attacks and requires every nation to take the necessary measures, including the use of force, to restore and maintain Atlantic security. Ocean. the territory of all the Allied countries.

Although NATO is now 73 years old, Article 5 has been invoked only once in history: to defend the United States in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

The organization, also known as the Atlantic Alliance, was established in the aftermath of World War II in 1949 in response to the Western Union and the spread of communism. The response of the Soviet Union and its allies at the time was the Warsaw Pact.

Russia’s neighbors, Finland and Sweden, maintained their neutrality towards the Soviet Union during the Cold War, maintaining the balance of their relations with both parties, despite co-operation agreements with Europe and accession to the European Union in 1995.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in early February 24 raised concerns in both Nordic countries and proved to be a turning point as Finland and Sweden processed their application to join the Atlantic Alliance.

It should be noted that without joining NATO, both Finland and Sweden already have military alliances with EU member states as members of the EU.

At what stage is the decision made?

According to the Swedish and Finnish press, the application for membership should take place at the end of May and will be made at the same time. However, the process is more advanced in Finland than in Sweden.

The Finnish Parliament began the membership debate on the 20th, when the attack on Ukraine increased political support and public opinion for the country’s accession to the military alliance. The Prime Minister of the Social Democrats Sanna Marin and President Sauli Niinistö, who are leading the five-party meeting of the center-left, have visited various NATO countries to ensure support for a potential candidate.

In a few weeks, the support for membership in Finns, which had been 20-30 per cent for decades, more than doubled to more than 60 per cent.

The Swedish government has also decided to review its security policy and it is expected to publish it before the end of May. Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said she wants to wait for the outcome of the assessment before making decisions.

The issue has become central in the run-up to Sweden’s parliamentary elections in September and public opinion will be involved in decision-making.

The support of Swedish citizens for membership is not as obvious as that of Finns, but a poll published on 21 December reveals that a majority of Swedes (51%) are in favor of joining NATO, a percentage increase from 45% a week ago.

While accession usually takes months or years, with candidates having to go through formal discussions with NATO leaders and gain unanimous approval, Finland and Sweden are likely to have a faster and easier process.

Not only is there a war in Europe, but those countries are already meeting the Alliance’s standards “in terms of political, democratic and civilian control over security institutions and the armed forces,” as NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said.

Do all Member States follow the same model?

No, Norway has a different status that Finland could follow.

Although Norway was a founding member of NATO, it decided not to turn its back on Moscow at all because it did not allow foreign military bases and nuclear weapons on its territory and imposed restrictions on the organization’s exercises.

Despite much greater involvement in NATO’s defense efforts in recent years, the country – which also has a 196km border with Russia – maintains a “softer” model of participation.

A Finnish official quoted by Foreign Policy acknowledged that the “Norwegian model” was being considered, stating that the country “is in dire need of foreign bases because it has its own bases”.

Although Finland’s armed forces are smaller than the main European NATO countries – such as Britain, France or Germany – its long preparation for a possible Russian invasion has made the country one of the most effective in artillery, airspace surveillance and missile readiness.

In the case of Sweden, the model adopted is likely to be “traditional”.

How does Russia see the possible accession of two countries to NATO?

The Russian president sees the enlargement of the Atlantic Alliance as a threat to his country.

When Turkey supports the southern part of NATO and the Baltic countries act as the eastern line of the union, the accession of Finland and Sweden to the north would be a sign of exactly the kind of alliance that Vladimir Putin fears, not least because Finland’s accession will double NATO’s border. Moscow.

On April 14, Russian Security Council Vice President Dmitry Medvedev threatened to deploy nuclear weapons in the Baltic Sea if Sweden and Finland joined NATO.

“It is necessary to strengthen the grouping of ground forces, air defense, to deploy significant navies in the waters of the Gulf of Finland. And then we can no longer talk about the Baltics without nuclear weapons. The balance must be restored,” Medvedev said.

The next day, Moscow today confirmed a warning that the possible accession of the countries will have consequences for Finland and Sweden, as well as for European security.

Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for Russia’s foreign ministry, said both countries “need to understand the consequences of such a move for our bilateral relations and for the security architecture of Europe as a whole”.

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