Finland and Sweden are taking an important step towards NATO membership

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson announced this jointly after a meeting on their security situation in the Swedish capital Stockholm.

‘Everything has changed’

According to Marin, the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24 has changed a lot for the security of both Finland and Sweden. “Everything has changed since Russia invaded Ukraine, that’s very clear. And that requires a debate in our country about our security, and therefore NATO membership.”

According to the Finnish Prime Minister, it is crucial that the security of other countries is taken into account in the case of NATO membership. “We understand very well that our choices affect ourselves, but also our neighboring countries. Our goal is always peace.”

At the end of June?

Shortly before the start of the press conference, the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet revealed that Andersson wants to formally apply for NATO membership at the NATO summit in Madrid in late June. Andersson declined to confirm, but said her country would lead a political debate on the added value and risks of such membership for Sweden.

“We have several options that are not risk-free,” Andersson said during a news conference. “We will continue to work closely and coordinate with Finland. When it comes to security, we depend on each other.”

Yes, the EU, not NATO

The two Scandinavian countries have been members of the European Union since 1995. But that does not apply to NATO, a military alliance led in practice by the United States, which now consists of thirty countries, including the Netherlands. All these countries can invoke Article 5 (an attack on one is an attack on all) according to which other member states promise to help the attacked country.

Finnish Prime Minister Marin said “there is no other way” to obtain military and political security guarantees than under this Article 5, she said on Wednesday.

‘Historical step’

“It is a historic step if Sweden and Finland, after years of neutrality, still become members of NATO. What Putin did not want, NATO enlargement, is now a direct consequence of the war in Ukraine,” said political reporter Fons Lambie.

“NATO has an open door policy: any country in Europe or North America can apply. Other countries have to decide whether to agree, but it seems like a formality. In Brussels you hear behind the scenes that if it’s real NATO membership will be a fact very soon.” if the parliaments of both countries agree, Sweden and Finland are EU countries that have increasingly consulted and co-operated with NATO in recent years, making the step towards membership easier. “

‘Very welcome members’

According to historians and Ivo van de Wijdeven, if Finland and Sweden want to join NATO, things could go fast. “NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg has already said that, when the request arrives, the solution will be quick. Not overnight, but they are very welcome members.”

Russia threatened in late February that Finland’s entry into NATO would have ‘serious military and political consequences’, without further details. This raises important questions about what Russia will do, for example, between official notification and actual accession, as on paper the country would not yet fall under NATO protection.

Temporary security

“The entire period from application to actual membership is not covered by Article 5. It is therefore important that this period be as short as possible,” says defense expert Dick Zandee of the Clingendael Institute. “Besides, as a country, you can conclude temporary security relations with NATO member states that are also nuclear powers. Imagine France, the United States and the United Kingdom.”

In the beginning, Van de Wijdeven mostly relies on strong words. “The Kremlin will be angry about this. It fits exactly into the framework that Putin has proposed for years about NATO expanding towards Russia’s border despite Russia’s concerns. At the same time, Finland and Sweden are not at the top of Russia’s list of problems. has his hands full dealing with the war in Ukraine. “

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