Russia’s invasion of Ukraine pushed it Finland and Sweden on the verge of submitting application for NATO membership.
Both countries are expected to join NATO, but both are concerned that they will be vulnerable during the processing of their applications, which could take up to a year.
Finland, which shares a 1,300-kilometer border with Russia, and Sweden will announce their decisions in the coming days amid threats from Moscow that in such a case Russia could develop nuclear weapons and supersonic missiles in the European enclave of Kaliningrad. .
Any applications for membership in the North Atlantic Alliance will cause a tense wait in the months needed to be ratified by all NATO members, although the Alliance and the White House have stated that they are confident that any security concerns could be addressed. in the interim.
Here is a history, some of the issues that led to a radical review of the policy of the two Nordic countries and what could be the next steps towards joining the Alliance of 30 countries, led by the US.
Why are Sweden and Finland not members of NATO?
Both countries remain non-aligned after World War II despite having small military forces relative to Russia.
Finland gained its independence from Russia in 1917 and fought two wars against it in World War II, during which it lost part of its territory to Moscow. Finland signed a Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Aid Agreement with Russia in 1948, consolidating a degree of economic and political dependence and remaining militarily isolated from Western Europe.
The end of the Cold War, which led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union, allowed Finland to emerge from Russia’s shadow as the threat from Moscow diminished.
Helsinki relied on its own military deterrence and friendly relations with Moscow to maintain peace. But with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a “military special operation,” Russian President Vladimir Putin seems far from friendly.
Sweden has not been at war for 200 years and post-war foreign policy has focused on supporting democracy internationally, multilateral dialogue and nuclear disarmament.
Stockholm reduced its army after the Cold War, hoping that in the event of war it could delay Russian advance until aid arrived. Putin’s attack on Ukraine has made the bailout much more attractive.
However, many on the left in Sweden remain skeptical of the US and NATO security agenda, which ultimately builds on the deterrent provided by the US nuclear arsenal.
Both Finland and Sweden switched from formal neutrality to military non-alignment in 1995 when they joined the European Union.
Both have become increasingly close to NATO in recent years, exchanging information and participating in alliance exercises in response to an increasingly belligerent Russia.
Joining the Alliance will bring Sweden and Finland under the umbrella of Article 5, which guarantees that an attack on a NATO ally is an attack on everyone.
How broad is the support for NATO membership?
Polls show that a significant majority of Swedes support NATO membership, a support of more than 60% in the last poll, and there is a majority in Parliament to approve an application to the Alliance.
Sweden’s Social Democrats – the largest party in power for most of the last century – have long argued for military non-alignment, but on Sunday reconsidered their objections with a decision on whether to join now. They are widely expected to support integration.
The Swedish Left Party – a former communist party – remains opposed to membership, as is the Green Party, but if the Social Democrats change their stance, this would create an overwhelming majority in parliament in favor of membership.
Polls show support for Finland’s accession is even stronger than in Sweden, with many Finns taking into account the country’s long land border with Russia, while Parliament’s support for an application is also wide.
The Finnish parliament’s defense committee said this week that NATO membership was the best option for Finland to guarantee its national security.
Finnish President Sauli Niinisto is expected to announce his position on NATO membership on Thursday, while Prime Minister Sana Marin also appears to express her views. Both are widely expected to support the application.
When can they join?
Finland has a “choice” of NATO, a kind of action plan that needs to be implemented in the event of a deteriorating security situation, and the Swedish parliament will present a new security policy review on Friday, although the latter is not expected to contain an explicit recommendation. with NATO.
Sweden’s Social Democrats called for a parliamentary debate on NATO on Monday. If the party supports as expected, the government could request a vote in the Swedish Parliament on the application, but it is not formally required.
THE Social Democrat Prime Minister Sana Marinwhich leads Finland ‘s five – party center – left coalition, and President Niinisto have been touring various NATO countries in recent weeks securing support for a possible application.
THE Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersonalso a Social Democrat, also had numerous meetings with NATO Heads of State, including British Boris Johnsonwho toured both Sweden and later Finland today, signing new agreements between London, Stockholm and Helsinki to boost European security, pledging to support the two countries’ armed forces in the event of an attack.
Finland and Sweden will they wanted to have some guarantees that NATO member states would defend them as long as any request is processed and until they become full members.
THE validation may take one yearthey say NATO diplomatsas the parliaments of all 30 NATO countries must approve new members.
THE NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stressed that the countries could join “quickly” and said he was confident that arrangements could be made for the interim period.
THE Finnish Foreign Minister Peka Haavisto recognized that Applying for membership alone would not bring the two countries under the umbrella of NATO Article 5, which guarantees that an attack on one ally is an attack on all.
“But at the same time, NATO member states have an interest in ensuring that there are no security breaches during the application period.”, said Haavisto. Finland could, for example, conduct enhanced military exercises with NATO members during this period.
What does Russia say?
Moscow has repeatedly warned of “serious consequences” if Finland and Sweden join NATO, saying it would strengthen its land, naval and air forces in the Baltic Sea and raise the possibility of developing nuclear weapons in the region.
The Kola Peninsula, in northwestern Russia, in the Arctic, east of the border with Finland and Norway, is a “strategic stronghold” that Moscow considers key to its national security and is also the base of Russia’s Northern Fleet.
Russia’s second largest city, St. Petersburg, is located approximately 170 km from the border with Finland.