Chris Lange, FISM News
In a move that has been largely expected, Finland and Sweden are moving closer to NATO membership, which could happen as early as this summer. Both Nordic countries have signaled a U-turn in their respective stances against joining the intergovernmental military alliance in response to Russia’s hostility toward Ukraine, no doubt banking on NATO protections to keep Moscow at bay.
Russia made a “massive strategic blunder” in its war on Ukraine by failing to calculate that one of its key objectives – forcing its neighbor to serve as a buffer from NATO countries – would bring a NATO base to its border, The Times reported Monday, citing officials. Finland shares a 1,300 km border with Russia.
The Finnish government plans to clarify its possible decision to seek membership next week, Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told reporters following a NATO foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels on Thursday, as reported by Reuters. Haavisto cited Russia’s actions toward Ukraine and references to potential biological and nuclear conflict as having created a situation “in which we may need cooperation,” alluding to NATO.
He added that NATO member countries estimate it will take four months to a full year to approve Finland’s application.
“There is an important NATO summit in Madrid in June. Of course NATO is wondering whether Finland and possibly Sweden will have submitted their membership applications before that,” Haavisto said, adding that Finland’s government will present parliament with a review next week detailing how Russia’s war on Ukraine has impacted national security. Should parliament give its blessing, the government is prepared to act swiftly to apply for NATO membership.
Though Finland is militarily non-aligned at present, it is a member of the European Union and a NATO partner.
Sweden, meanwhile, has been more hesitant to join NATO but has signaled a willingness to reverse its position, depending upon what Finland does. Democrats party leader Jimmie Akesson said he has been given the green light to pursue membership in the alliance, indicating that there is now a majority in parliament in favor of joining.
“Then (if Finland applies) my ambition is to go to the party council with a request that we change our mind,” Akesson said in an interview, according to the news service.
“What’s changed now is that Finland is very clearly moving towards a NATO membership and there are many indications this may happen in the near future. That, and the fact Ukraine, which is not a NATO member, is completely alone, has made me turn,” Akesson added.
NATO’s membership will expand to include 32 countries if Finland and Sweden join.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Sunday said that the alliance plans to install a much larger and permanent military presence on its borders with Russia, further confirming Russia’s gambit to keep NATO from its doorstep has backfired spectacularly.
“Regardless of when, how, the war in Ukraine ends, the war has already had long-term consequences for our security,” Stoltenberg told Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper. “NATO needs to adapt to that new reality. And that’s exactly what we are doing.”