Swedes and Finns worry about security risks on way to NATO


NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, left, speaks with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at NATO headquarters in Brussels on March 4, 2022. (Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)

(Tribune News Service) – As Sweden and Finland consider joining NATO, the two countries are seeking clarity on how to bridge the gap between filing their candidacies and when security guarantees from the military alliance would come into effect with full membership.

Although there are few signs that the two Nordic nations would struggle to gain acceptance, Russia has repeatedly warned against joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and is concerned therefore of a possible aggression from Moscow if it officially signals its alignment with the Western bloc.

Public support for membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization saw a historic shift in both countries following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and in Finland nearly half of all lawmakers now openly support a candidacy.

While policymakers have stepped up diplomatic efforts to remove any doubts about welcoming all the members, they are seeking more certainty about short-term guarantees that they would not be left alone against Russia. NATO’s Article 5 mutual defense clause only applies to members.

“Finland’s concern about the gray area between applying for membership and full membership” is “fairly well understood among NATO countries,” Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said Thursday.

It could take between four months and a year for all 30 NATO members to ratify their demands, Haavisto said, noting that he had received an indication that countries would be ready to speed up the process.

Asked about their possible memberships, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said earlier this week that he expected all 30 allies to welcome them if they decided to apply. He said NATO “will also find ways to address concerns” about the interim period.

Finland and Sweden already have some degree of collective security commitments as a result of their membership in the European Union. Article 42.7 of the EU treaty states that if a member is the victim of an armed attack, the other members have an obligation to help, but this does not bind the United States as its membership would. NATO.

NATO officials have said they would welcome Finland and Sweden’s membership and stress long and deep partnerships with these countries, including through regular joint military exercises with their armed forces.

Any Swedish membership bid depends on the ruling Social Democrats changing their stance, while the Finns appear to have decided to join and are setting up a parliamentary process designed to engage lawmakers from all political backgrounds.

A white paper on security policy due in Helsinki next week will not contain a membership proposal, but the government and the president are ready to submit an addendum on it “when the time is right” after being satisfied that lawmakers back the bid, Haavisto mentioned.

“I think we will end the discussion before mid-summer,” Prime Minister Sanna Marin told reporters on Friday, referring to a public holiday that falls on June 25 this year. “We will have very careful discussions, but we will not take more time than necessary in this process, because the situation is of course very serious,” she said.

Sweden and Finland have for years worked closely with their allies on military interoperability, exercises, training and also adhere to NATO standards for political, democratic and civilian control over security institutions and the armed forces, Stoltenberg said.

“No other country is closer to NATO,” Stoltenberg said on Wednesday.

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