Sweden and Finland ‘agree to both apply for NATO membership next month despite threats from Russian Govt
Sweden and Finland have agreed to submit simultaneous membership applications to the US-led Nato alliance as early as the middle of next month, Nordic media have reported.
The Finnish daily Iltalehti said on Monday that Stockholm had “suggested the two countries indicate their willingness to join” on the same day, and that Helsinki had agreed “as long as the Swedish government has made its decision”.
The Swedish newspaper Expressen cited government sources as confirming the report. The two countries’ prime ministers said this month they were deliberating the question, arguing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had changed Europe’s “whole security landscape” and “dramatically shaped mindsets” in the Nordic region.
Finland’s prime minister, Sanna Marin, said then that her country, which shares a 1,300km (810 mile) border with Russia, would decide whether to apply to join the alliance “quite fast, in weeks not months”, despite the risk of infuriating Moscow.
Her Swedish counterpart, Magdalena Andersson, said Sweden had to be “prepared for all kinds of actions from Russia” and that “everything had changed” when Moscow attacked Ukraine. Russia has repeatedly warned both countries against the move.
The Kremlin said it would be forced to “restore military balance” by strengthening its defences in the Baltic, including by deploying nuclear weapons, if the two countries decided to abandon decades of military nonalignment by joining Nato.
Sweden’s foreign minister, Ann Linde, said last week a wide-ranging security policy review would be concluded by 13 rather than 31 May as originally planned, adding that with Finland’s analysis already published “there is now a lot of pressure”
Expressen said the simultaneous applications could be submitted in the week of 16 May, coinciding with a state visit to Stockholm by the Finnish president Sauli Niinistö. The Guardian could not independently confirm the reports.
Recent opinion polls have shown as many as 68% of Finns are in favour of joining the alliance, more than double the figure before the invasion, with only 12% against. Polling in Sweden suggests a slim majority of Swedes also back membership.
Both countries are officially nonaligned militarily, but became Nato partners – taking part in exercises and exchanging intelligence – after abandoning their previous stance of strict neutrality when they joined the EU in 1995 after the end of the cold war.