Finland and Sweden may join NATO

Finland and Sweden may join NATO

Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Finland and Sweden has been considering joining the NATO military alliance, which would be a major policy shift for the Nordic region.

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

The coming days are crucial. On May 12, Finland will apply for NATO membership, according to the newspaper Iltalehti, citing anonymous Finnish government sources.

Iltalehti reported that it would come in two steps. President Sauli Niinisto would first announce his approval for Finland to join, followed by parliamentary groups giving their approval for the application. There would not be a plenary vote in Parliament but parliamentary group leaders who expressed their groups' decisions.

It was not immediately possible to confirm the report.

The results are due on May 13th, Sweden's parliament is conducting a security policy review, including the pros and cons of joining the alliance. There is a majority in the parliament in support of NATO membership.

The Social Democrats, the biggest party in every election for the last 100 years, will have an internal debate from May 9 to May 12 on whether to drop long-standing opposition to NATO membership, with the party leadership to make a decision by May 24 at the latest.

Sweden is likely to do the same if Finland applies, as it wouldn't want to be the sole Nordic outsider. Other Nordic countries — Norway, Denmark and Iceland — joined the pact as founding members. Several recent polls show that a majority of Swedes are in favor, something never seen before Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Finland and Sweden would like to be assured that NATO member nations would defend them during any transition period, when they would be applicants to the alliance but not yet in.

As parliaments of all 30 NATO countries need to approve new members, ratification can take a year, according to NATO diplomats.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that the countries could join quickly and he was sure arrangements could be found for the interim period.

Sweden has promised to increase military presence, more in-depth military exercises and strong political support from NATO countries during a possible NATO application process, according to Swedish daily Aftonbladet.

The Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto acknowledged that filing a membership application would not bring the two Nordic countries under the umbrella of NATO s Article 5, which guarantees that an attack on one ally is an attack on all.

Haavisto said that Finn could hold enhanced military exercises with NATO members during the application period, because of the fact that at the same time NATO member countries have an interest in that no security breaches would take place during the application period.

Moscow has warned of the serious consequences if Finland and Sweden join NATO, saying it would have to strengthen its land, naval and air forces in the Baltic Sea, and has raised the possibility of deploying nuclear weapons in the area.

Russia and Finland share a 1,300 kilometer border. The Kola Peninsula is a strategic bastion that Moscow considers key to Russia's national security, and is also the home of the Russian Northern Fleet. St. Petersburg, Russia's second-biggest city, lies about 170 km from the border with Finland.