Sweden and Finland have proclaimed their intent to join NATO in the backdrop of the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian war in Europe.
The move, which is a drastic deviation from decades of military non-alignment between both countries, deals another blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin as his country struggles with the repercussions of his unjust invasion of Ukraine.
Finland’s parliament was the first to announce its bid to join the NATO alliance after Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin made their proclamation on Sunday. Its close Nordic neighbor, Sweden, followed later that same day after the country’s ruling Social Democrats reversed their long-standing opposition to the move. SOFREP recently reported that the official announcement for them to join the alliance would come in the coming weeks, as Marin stated prior.
The Nordic countries’ shift to join NATO is the latest, and arguably the most prominent, development in the European security climate after Germany and other regional powers have announced that they will ramp up their defense spending in the coming years.
Finland officially announced its intention to join NATO on Sunday, as Sweden's ruling party said it also backed membership
— AFP News Agency (@AFP) May 15, 2022
“We’re now facing a fundamentally changed security environment in Europe,” Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said.
“The fundamental question for us is: How do we best protect Sweden? And the Kremlin has shown that they are prepared to use violence to achieve their political objectives and that they don’t hesitate to take enormous risks.”
For Andersson, Moscow’s unjustified aggression against Kyiv is not only “indefensible” but has also compromised the delicate security balance set in Europe. Her country taking a stance in favor of joining the 30-nation alliance despite 200 years of staying neutral represents the need to reimagine foreign policy in this new landscape.
“For us Social Democrats, it is clear that military non-alignment has served Sweden well, but our conclusion is that it won’t serve us as well in the future,” she said.
However, Andersson noted that Sweden would continue to express reservations against “the deployment of nuclear weapons and permanent bases” on Swedish soil.
In Finland, President Sauli Niinisto celebrated the joint announcement in a press conference with Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin on Sunday.
“This is a historic day,” Niinisto said. “A new era begins.”
Both decisions still need ratification from their respective parliaments, but many consider this a formality given the abundance of support from the public. Opposition against seeking NATO membership flipped almost immediately in Finland and Sweden after Russia launched its invasion on February 24.
“In Finland, we still have the parliamentary process ahead of us,” Marin said, “but I trust the Parliament will debate this historic decision with determination and responsibility,” the Finnish Prime Minister said.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has expressed his enthusiasm for the accession of Sweden and Finland into the alliance, saying that it would be a “turning point for security” in the region.
“Their membership in NATO would increase our shared security, demonstrate that NATO’s door is open and that aggression does not pay,” Stoltenberg added.
“Russia has created what the Russian president always wanted to prevent,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said. She noted that the two countries had no intention of joining the alliance before the invasion but are now “very likely” to do so.
Russia has expressed that both countries’ securities will not improve by joining NATO and that they were “grave mistakes.”
“This is another grave mistake with far-reaching consequences,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said.
#UPDATE Russia warns that decisions by Finland and Sweden to join the NATO military alliance are serious mistakes.
"This is another grave mistake with far-reaching consequences," Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies pic.twitter.com/EiSDdr2Kqw
— AFP News Agency (@AFP) May 16, 2022
Demands from Turkey
At its core, the primary reason any country would seek NATO membership is to benefit from the pact’s Article 5 – a defense commitment that considers any attack on a member as an attack on the whole alliance.
Current NATO Members must unanimously approve Sweden and Finland’s application before they can be accommodated into the alliance. Such a process could take several months or longer.
The United States and Britain have already endorsed the Nordic countries’ bid to join the pact and have even pledged their support to aid them during the gray period where their application is being processed.
However, Turkey, a NATO member, has expressed its opposition to the Nordic countries’ bid to join the alliance. The country has accused Finland and Sweden of funding the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting an armed struggle against the Turkish government for decades.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan claimed that it would not support the two countries’ bid to join NATO because Nordic countries were allegedly “home to many terrorist organizations,” he claimed.
“We are following the developments regarding Sweden and Finland, but we don’t hold positive views,” Erdogan stated. “As Turkey, we don’t want to repeat similar mistakes. Furthermore, Scandinavian countries are guesthouses for terrorist organizations.”
“They are even members of the parliament in some countries. It is not possible for us to be in favor.”
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that the two countries must first stop supporting terrorist organizations in Turkey before they enter an alliance with them. He added that the Swedish and Finnish governments must also provide clear security guarantees and lift export bans against Turkey.
Cavusoglu noted that the Turkish government is not trying to leverage its position in NATO but is rather speaking out against the PKK militant group, which it believes is receiving support from the two aspiring members.
Despite the initial resistance, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has expressed his confidence that the alliance will reach a consensus on Finland and Sweden.
His sentiments were echoed by Stoltenberg, who said that “(Turkey) has made it clear that its intention is not to block membership” of the Nordic countries.
Cavusoglu said that his talks with his Swedish and Finnish counterparts in Berlin, Germany, have helped ease the animosity between the countries. He also mentioned that the Nordic countries had given their suggestions on how to address Ankara’s concerns, which it will consider.