Explanation: What you need to know about Finland and Sweden’s path to NATO membership


Norwegian and Swedish army medics simulate the evacuation of a field hospital as part of a military exercise called “Cold Response 2022,” about 30,000 soldiers from NATO member states plus Finland and Sweden, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, gather in Setermoen in the Arctic, Norway, March 25 2022. REUTERS/Yves Hermann/File Photo

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  • The Ukraine war changed public opinion in Finland and Sweden
  • Two weeks are crucial to the decision to join NATO
  • The question of when they will present, not if
  • Both want security guarantees in any transitional period

HELSINKI/STOCKHOLM, May 3 (Reuters) – Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Finland and Sweden are considering applying for membership in the NATO military alliance, which would mark a major shift in northern region policy.

Here is the latest information on the process and key points under discussion:

What are the next major steps?

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The coming days are crucial. On Sunday, Iltalehti newspaper, citing anonymous Finnish government sources, reported that Finland will decide on May 12 to apply for NATO membership. Read more

Al-Taliti stated that the matter will come in two steps. President Sauli Niinisto will first declare his approval of Finland’s accession, followed by parliamentary groups that give their assent to the application.

There will be no voting in the full parliament, but parliamentary leaders will express the decisions of their groups.

Reuters was not immediately able to confirm the news.

In Sweden, parliament is conducting a review of security policy, including the pros and cons of joining the alliance, the results of which are due on May 13. There is already a majority in Parliament that supports NATO membership.

In parallel, the ruling Social Democrats, the largest party in every election over the past 100 years, will hold an internal debate May 9-12 over whether to drop long-standing opposition to NATO membership, with the party leadership making a decision. . By May 24 at the latest. Read more

If Finland applied, Sweden would likely do the same, as it would not want to be the only intruder from the Nordic countries. Other Nordic countries – Norway, Denmark and Iceland – joined the convention as founding members. Several recent opinion polls indicate that a majority of Swedes are in favor – something unprecedented before the Russian invasion. Read more

Finland and Sweden would like to have some guarantee that NATO member states will defend them during any transition period, when they are applicants to join the alliance, but have not yet joined.

NATO diplomats say ratification could take a year, as the parliaments of NATO’s 30 countries have to approve new members.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said countries could join “quickly” and he was sure arrangements could be found for the transition period. Read more

Swedish daily Aftonbladet reported that the US and Britain promised Sweden “an increased military presence, more in-depth military exercises and ‘strong political’ support from NATO countries” during the potential NATO introduction process. Read more

Finland’s foreign minister, Pekka Haavisto, has acknowledged that applying for membership in and of itself would not put the two Scandinavian nations under the umbrella of NATO’s Article 5, which ensures that an attack on one ally is an attack on all.

“But at the same time, NATO member states have an interest in not having any security breaches during the application period,” Haavisto said, adding that Finland, for example, could conduct enhanced military exercises with NATO members during that period. Read more

Moscow has repeatedly warned of “serious consequences” if Finland and Sweden join NATO, saying they will have to bolster their land, sea and air forces in the Baltic Sea, and has raised the possibility of deploying nuclear weapons in the region. Read more

Russia and Finland share a 1,300 km (810 mi) border. The Kola Peninsula, located in Russia’s northwest North Pole pointing east from the borders with Finland and Norway, is a “strategic stronghold” that Moscow considers key to its national security, and is also the home of the Russian Northern Fleet. Saint Petersburg, the second largest city in Russia, is located about 170 km from the border with Finland.

(This story is corrected to clarify the wording in paragraphs 5, 6 and last paragraph)

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Additional reporting by Robin Emmott in Brussels

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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