Do Sweden and Finland join NATO?

do-sweden-and-finland-join-nato

Finland, as well as Sweden, is in the process of gaining membership in Finland and Sweden is
on the verge of requesting membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which is a
significant shift for two countries that are traditionally non-aligned and significant development of
the Western alliance as war is raging across Europe.

On Thursday, Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin both strongly
support Finnish NATO participation. “NATO membership would strengthen Finland’s security,”
they declared in a joint declaration. “As a member of NATO, Finland would strengthen the
defense alliance in general. Finland should submit an application for NATO membership as
soon as possible.”

What transpires in Helsinki is being watched closely by the Swedish parliament in Stockholm.
The Swedish parliament released an article on Friday that stated the decision to join NATO will
“raise the threshold” for military conflict. Sweden’s ruling party The Social Democrats, is
engaged in internal debates regarding a change of their long-standing position in opposition to
NATO membership, which could pave an avenue for Sweden to announce its NATO ambitions
known in the next few days. Finland initially moved to join NATO however, the two countries are
in close coordination and likely to apply for NATO membership simultaneously.

This is an incredibly significant turn for two countries that have built their geopolitical identity by
non-alignment for decades – Finland for decades and Sweden for over two centuries. This will
bring their close partners together, increasing NATO’s influence throughout Northern Europe
and putting more pressure on Russia’s border. After restraining NATO acceptance for so many years will signal to Finland and Sweden they have joined forces with Europe as well as with the
United States, and its allies in a time of crisis for Europe.

“This is pretty monumental,” said Katherine Kjellstrom Elgin, a member of the Center for
Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. “It’s a fundamental change to the European alliance
structure.”

Finland, as well as Sweden, have already a close collaboration with NATO however they have
not formally joined which worked both strategically and politically. However, the Russians’
massive attack on Ukraine has changed the entire world.

“Popular opinion, and the way Finnish political decision-makers see this, turned around very
rapidly after Russia attacked Ukraine in February,” stated Janne Kuusela head of the defense
department of the Finland Ministry of Defense. “It changed dramatically the security situation in
Europe, and the way most Finns see how we best take care of our own defense and security,
and how we contribute to the overall stability in northeastern Europe.”

This shift of public sentiment — now there is the majority of people who support the joining of
NATO across the two countries of Finland as well as Sweden as well as a sign of a wider
awakening that the status of the game with Russia will not last. Finland experienced the
greatest shock quickly due to its geographical location (it has an 800-mile boundary with
Russia) and also it’s past. Joonas Kontta, a Member of the Finnish Center Party who serves on
the defense committee, stated that the common experience of the Soviet Union’s assault
against Finland in 1939 gave an obvious answer: “Finns realized that it could happen to us.”

Finland’s determination is, in a way it is in ways, pulling Sweden to its side however, experts
believe that Sweden is somewhat more divided politically on this issue, and is weighing more
strongly on its long-standing tradition of non-alignment. “We will never have this sense of
urgency, in the same way as Finland because of its history and its proximity to Russia,”
explained Anna Wieslander, the Stockholm-based director of Northern Europe at the Atlantic
Council.

However, Sweden together with Finland’s tight ties implies that they will join forces. NATO is
expected and all its members to accept Sweden and Finland. There is also a sense of urgency.
Finland and Sweden aren’t officially protected from NATO’s mutual defense safeguards until
they have actually joined the agreement.

Russia Naturally isn’t happy. Moscow frequently warned about NATO membership when it
became apparent that they were both moving towards it. On Thursday, the Russian ministry of
foreign affairs declared that Helsinki must be aware of the “consequences,” of its decision as
well as Kremlin spokeswoman Dmitry Peskov threatened a “corresponding symmetrical
response.” Russia’s struggle in Ukraine and other reasons make the possibility of a military
strike on Finland or Sweden not likely, although experts and government officials think that
different forms of hybrid warfare may be possible including disinformation campaigns and
cyberattacks.

However, Finland and Sweden’s possible NATO acceptance could be a setback for Putin. The
conflict that is raging in Ukraine has to do with much more than NATO expansion However, even
in the event that Putin tried to limit the influence of NATO in Europe but he has been able to
expand and strengthen it. In other words, as Finnish president Niinisto spoke on Wednesday,
was asked how Putin will react to Finland’s NATO move: “You caused this — look at the mirror.”

When two non-aligned countries stop being friendly and start becoming
really in NATO

Sweden as well as Finland have joined Finland and Sweden joined the European Union in the
post-Cold War era, but maintained the policy of non-alignment in the military. This means, there
was no formal NATO participation.

Sweden has been practicing a form of nonalignment from the 19th century onwards. The story
of Finland is more complex. The Soviet Union was able to invade Finland at the end of 1939
and, even as the Finns were able to fend off a complete invasion during the Winter War, the
threat from their neighbor remained. This forced Finland to take a stand of nonalignment in the
Cold War, although with plenty of Soviet influence and influence from the domestic political
scene.

Finland has, since then, maintained its nonalignment due to pragmatism. It shares a border of
over 800 miles with Russia and both governments have maintained a close relationship while
investing heavily into its defense, which included the creation of the Conscription force.

In recent times, Finland and Sweden have developed into strong allies in NATO. They are as
close as any country could get to the alliance without actually being part of the alliance. They
participate in training exercises together and have shared some information and both Sweden
as well as Finland supported their NATO’s role in Afghanistan. NATO’s door remained
accessible for Sweden and Finland however, it wasn’t something that either was required to
pursue until there was a change in the situation of security within Europe rapidly changed. This
is precisely the situation that occurred when Russia began to threaten Ukraine.

In December of last year, as Russia expanded its military across Ukraine’s border, Moscow
issued ultimatums that were aimed at rewriting the European security structure including
demands for no NATO expansion, and the creation of a Russian area of influence. The move
shook Sweden however it also shocked Finland. Wieslander from the Atlantic Council, said, for
the Finnish leaders it was an indication of the small space Finland was able to use during the
Cold War, both internationally as well as domestically. Moscow’s demands led to that “feeling
that Finland’s road to being part of the West could not be jeopardized and that the informal
position that Finland could have in relation to NATO was not strong enough.”

This triggered the reflection in Helsinki and Russia’s Ukraine invasion was a major shock. In
Finland, the country, support for NATO generally sat within 20- to 20 percent of the population.
The year was January 20, 2022. just 30 % of the Finnish population was supportive of NATO participation. After the Russian invasion, the figure increased to 53 percent up to a record 75
percent during May.

While the sweeping shifts in public opinion might have been, Finland’s close ties with the West,
as well as NATO, have made the idea of joining NATO more appealing. “It’s still much more an
evolution rather than revolution, in a way, the attitude towards NATO,” said Sinikukka Saari, a
leading Analyst on Russia and Future Sight at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs.
Finnish Institute of International Affairs.

Finland and Sweden being EU members, joined tough sanctions against Russia as well as sent
weapons to Ukraine. They were in union with the West but were not members of NATO and,
following the Russian invasion, they exposed an issue, especially for Finland.

Sweden, experts say that in Sweden, the calculation is more complex. The support for joining
NATO has increased in double-digits since January, ranging from around 57 in April, according
to polls. However, the support does not seem to be as strong as it was in Finland. Sweden
remains firmly attached to its image as a neutral state which it has maintained throughout major
wars in Europe as well as both World Wars and the Cold War. “The decision not to join NATO
for Sweden, more so than Finland, was rooted in the neutral, nonaligned identity,” Elgin
declared.

It is worth noting that the Social Democrats, who run the government of Sweden’s minority
historically, have been opposed to NATO membership. It’s the same position they repeated
during the November election. Then, in March Swedish Premier Magdalena Andersson refused
to accept the demands of the opposition for Sweden to be a member of NATO, saying it could
weaken Europe further. The prime minister only made a suggestion to review the security
situation in March. There is a rift between the Left, Green as well as the left parties remain
opposed to NATO membership at this point. Sweden’s conservative opposition parties have
been able to be more favorable toward NATO membership and have backed a recent proposal.
In addition, there are the upcoming elections for Sweden’s national parliament in September.
“The question about NATO membership has been deeply polarized between the parties,”
Wieslander stated, noting that this has led to a slowing of the debate regardless of whether
Sweden could end in the same spot as Finland.

Finland is a strong partner with Sweden. Their partnership almost guarantees that neither of
them will decide to move forward in the event that they believed the other might resent. “I would
stress that we are doing this together,” Erkki Tuomioja, who is a Social Democrat in the Finnish
Parliament, previously served as a minister of foreign affairs.

Finland’s quest to gain NATO acceptance was also part of a deliberate process. Kontra who is
on the defense committee stated that when he ran for parliament, he declared that Finland was
not required to join NATO. He resigned in the month of December and began reviewing his
position. In March the news broke of his change of mind.

Tuomioja Tuomioja, on the other hand, has said he’d be in favor of Finland’s NATO route but
remains a bit doubtful. He also said that he would have preferred to think about alternatives, but
in the eyes of the public and even in the Parliament, NATO is seen as the most secure security
option.

“Whether or not you think this is the best idea to join NATO,” he added, “it’s always better than
Sweden and Finland do things together.”

What is this all about to NATO? and all the rest of us?

Another benefit to Finland and Sweden joining forces is This reduces the risks of announcing
the country’s membership in NATO.

The risk lies in the way Russia reacts. Moscow has warned Sweden and Finland with regard to
NATO membership. This week, in particular, the Kremlin stated that it would adopt
“military-technical” steps should Finland want to join NATO.

Putin claims that Russia and the West for the conflict in Ukraine and NATO’s likely expansion
across the 800 miles of Russian border into the narrative. “If Finland and Sweden actually also
joined NATO, then that will just be a detail that somehow proves that the Russians were right,”
said Martin Hurt, a research researcher in the International Centre for Defense and Security and
an ex- Estonian Defense official. “But the rest will still be made up of lies and disinformation.”

However, Finland’s or Sweden’s NATO membership is unlikely to be a source of concern for
Putin in the same way as for instance, the ascension to the status of an old Soviet republic.
Finland might sting a little more than Sweden, but being an EU member and a NATO member,
Moscow likely already sees them as being tied to the West. “Russia will see Finland’s NATO
membership as some sort of defeat and betrayal, but it is or should be much easier to accept
than … for example, the membership of the Baltic states in the alliance,” Tuomas Forsberg is an
expert in international relations and Director of Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies in an
email.

It’s a good idea to consider that if you’re planning to join a military alliance that the Kremlin
considers being an existential threat, then you must do so while the Russian military is in a
prolonged conflict within Ukraine. There is the certainty the fact that Finland or Sweden are the
most at risk when they make public their NATO decision, yet they don’t have formal safeguards.
“There is a general feeling that this kind of gray period should be kept as short as possible,”
Saari stated.

NATO is likely to attempt to keep this timeframe as short as it can be even though the timeline
remains slightly unclear. In the case of recent ascensions, they required Montenegro about 18
months however there is the general consensus for Finland as well as Sweden will move faster.

Both are able to meet the requirements of the political system as established, strong
democracies. Their close collaboration with NATO implies that they already have a high degree of interoperability. This is military jargon for their tactics and systems being in harmony. “In that
sense, there’s very little of a delta that they have to step up to achieve,” said Steven Horrell, a
nonresident senior researcher at the Center for European Policy Analysis. Finland already is
spending close to two percent of NATO goals for its members. Sweden already has plans to
boost its military expenditure in the coming decade.

NATO members, prior to the war with Russia made it clear that, if Finland and Sweden would
like to join, NATO would eagerly have them. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in
an announcement Thursday that in the event that Sweden or Finland is interested in joining,
“they will be warmly welcomed.”

But, each NATO member must be able to approve the application and even though it could be
more difficult in certain countries in comparison to other countries, all NATO members must be
in support of their ascent. Then, NATO and its members are providing assurances during the
period of application. The White House spokesperson told vox that the US is “confident that we
could find ways to address any concerns either country may have about the period of time
between a NATO membership application and their formal accession to the Alliance.” The
United Kingdom offered more formal security assurances in the last week.

Finland and Sweden’s assimilation into NATO could also alter the shape of the alliance by subtle
means. The inclusion of the countries of Finland along with Sweden will alter the way it plans its
military operations within areas like the Nordic, Arctic, and Baltic regions. NATO will extend its
boundaries with Russia and will gain access to new frontiers from which it can exert pressure on
Russia however, it will also be able to do so from a front that it has a duty to defend.

NATO is still facing some serious strategic issues, either whether or not there are new
members. However, Finnish and Swedish membership is symbolic of the NATO alliance. “Putin
talked before this third invasion of Ukraine about redrawing the global security architecture,”
Horrell declared. “And, well, that’s one thing he’s achieved, but I think not quite the way he
wanted to.”

Counting down to Finland & Sweden’s NATO decision