Finland, Sweden veer closer to NATO in historic policy shift

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin and her Swedish counterpart say a decision on joining the military alliance could come by late June.

Finland will make a decision about whether to apply to join the 30-member NATO alliance in the next few weeks, Prime Minister Sanna Marin told reporters in a joint news conference with her Swedish counterpart.

“There are different perspectives to apply [for] NATO membership or not to apply and we have to analyse these very carefully,” Marin told reporters in the Swedish capital Stockholm on Wednesday.

“But I think our process will be quite fast, it will happen in weeks.”

Marin said parliament would debate an official assessment of how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine led to a “change of our security environment” and evaluate making a historic shift in Finland’s defence posture.

“We need to be frank about consequences and risks, both long and short term,” Marin said.

However, she anticipated there was “no other way to have security guarantees than under NATO’s deterrence and common defence”, and a decision could come by late June.

Finland and Sweden, which share a border and a similar security environment, have deepened collaboration both among themselves and with NATO since Russia invaded Crimea in 2014.

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said Moscow’s decision to invade Ukraine had been a watershed moment.

“There is a before and after 24 February, the security landscape has completely changed,” she told reporters. “Given the situation, we have to really think what is best for Sweden and our peace in this new situation.”

Andersson said the two countries had similar timeframes for joining NATO and “there is good reason for that”, hinting at the fact that neither Stockholm nor Helsinki wish to be the last to stand outside the alliance.

Russia has warned Finland and Sweden against joining NATO, an alliance formed in 1949 to counter the threat of Soviet expansion, arguing the move would not bring stability to Europe.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters “the alliance remains a tool geared towards confrontation”.

Finland, which shares a 1,340km (830-mile) border with Russia, for decades refused to take sides, a position that kept the peace but also confined its sovereignty.

Following the Russian Revolution in 1917, it was peacefully granted independence by Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin, although a bloody civil war soon broke out between the ruling conservative party and the communists.

Soviet leader Joseph Stalin attempted an invasion in November 1939 in what became known as the Winter War.

Sweden also has a long history of military non-alignment but has sent weapons to a country at war – Ukraine – for the first time since World War II.

Sweden’s governing Social Democrat party had until now rejected membership in NATO. On Monday, it said it was reviewing its international security policy in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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