Finland will decide whether to join NATO next week on May 12, according to Finnish publication Iltalehti, which cited anonymous government insiders. Sweden may likely follow Finland as the two countries are reportedly joining the alliance together. This report follows increased tensions between Sweden and Russia as the Swedish Government discovered a Russian spy plane over their airspace a few days ago.
The announcement to join the alliance will be first made by the Finnish President, Sauli Niinisto, to be followed by approval from the country’s parliament. This is because, according to the Finnish constitution, the President has authority on matters regarding foreign and security policy in coordination with the national government.
News of the upcoming decision comes after a previous report by the same Finnish newspapers, which claimed that Sweden and Finland have both agreed to file their NATO applications simultaneously.
According to Iltalehti, Swedish officials “suggested the two countries indicate their willingness to join” on the same date, adding that their Finnish counterparts agreed, “as long as the Swedish government has made its decision.”
Sweden and Finland have been in close contact since Russia launched its unjustified invasion of Ukraine. Over the past weeks, the two Nordic countries, which have both previously embraced a foreign policy of non-alignment, have shown a strong inclination to join the NATO alliance.
Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin has said that the decision to join the alliance will be “quite fast, in weeks not months,” despite constant threats from the Kremlin. Among all countries, Finland shares the longest land border with Russia at around 810 miles (1,300 kilometers). This puts the country at the vanguard of Russian aggression if the latter decides to make do with its threats.
In Stockholm, the parliament is conducting a broad security policy review on the benefits and the risks of joining NATO. Results were initially scheduled for May 31 but were moved to May 13 after significant pressure brought by the conclusion of a similar report by their Finnish counterparts. Notably, the Swedish parliament has majority support to join NATO.
Over in Helsinki, the ruling Social Democrat party is set to have an internal debate regarding concerns over NATO membership on May 9 through 12. Results are to be declared by the party leadership on May 24. However, this date will likely come earlier if the decision to join on May 12 is announced.
Only Finland and Sweden are the Nordic countries not part of the NATO alliance. Other Nordic countries – Denmark, Iceland, and Norway, are part of the treaty as founding members. If either one of the two countries applies for membership, it is almost certain that the other will follow to avoid getting left out in the region.
Support from the West
Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said that the countries are aware of the vulnerable gap between the time they file their applications to when they can become full-fledged members of the alliance.
Even with assurance from NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg that Sweden and Finland can join “quickly,” there is still a transition period where the two countries do not benefit from NATO’s Article 5, a guarantee that an attack on an ally is an attack on the whole alliance.
Hence, support from Western powers during this gray period will prove crucial to ensuring that Russia does not exploit this opening.
According to Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde, the United States has expressed its commitment to “provide various forms of security assurances” to the two Nordic countries. The statement came on Wednesday after she met with U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in Washington, D.C.
Linde clarified that the commitment of the US to the two nations does not equate to a security guarantee. Nonetheless, it could still send a message to Russia that “if they conduct any negative activities toward Sweden, which they have threatened, the US will not let that pass unnoticed, without doing anything.”
The United Kingdom’s Defense Secretary Ben Wallace has also expressed his country’s willingness to aid the Scandinavian states during the transition.
In a statement made during a trip to Finland, Wallace, who was beside his Finnish counterpart Antti Kaikkonen, stressed that alliances between European nations “makes us safer.” He noted, however, that Finland has freedom on whether to join NATO, adding that his country will not try to influence their decision.
“Do I think if Finland didn’t join NATO, Britain wouldn’t come along to help? No. Britain will always be here in the Nordics, to be part of you, to help you, to support you,” Wallace said.
“It is inconceivable that Britain would not come to the support of Finland, or Sweden, if it was ever attacked, without any big formal agreement. We are European countries who share the same values, who have deep, long histories.”
The British secretary cited the cultural and ethnic ties between Finland and the United Kingdom, saying much of the British population were descendants of “Vikings.”
“I cannot conceive a time when we wouldn’t come to support Finland and Sweden no matter where they were with the Nato debate or where they are with agreements,” he reiterated.
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