Finland and Sweden can join the US-led military bloc within a few months, sources tell The Times
Finland and Sweden can join NATO as early as this summer in response to Moscow’s ongoing military operation in Ukraine, according to a report by The Times on Monday.
The Finnish application to join the bloc is expected to be submitted in June, and Sweden will follow shortly after that, unnamed American officials told the British newspaper.
The possible membership of the two Nordic nations was “a topic of discussion and several sessions” during the NATO Foreign Ministers’ summit in Brussels last week, the sources said. Finnish FM Pekka Haavisto and his Swedish counterpart Ann Linde were both present at the two-day talks.
Helsinki and Stockholm “would be real feathers in NATO’s hat as net contributors”, especially in terms of intelligence gathering and air force capabilities, according to a European diplomat who spoke to the newspaper.
Russia, Finland and Sweden all have access to the Baltic Sea, with a divided Russian-Finnish land border extending over about 1,340 km.
A senior US official claimed that the Russian offensive in Ukraine was “a massive strategic blunder for [Russia’s President Vladimir] Putin “because it made Helsinki and Stockholm question their policy of not joining any military alliances.
Moscow opposes the enlargement of NATO, but the inclusion of Finland and Sweden in the bloc will not be an existential threat to it, the Kremlin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov told Sky News on Friday. But Russia would need to make its “western flank more sophisticated in terms of ensuring our security” if such a move takes place, he said.
NATO is “tailored for confrontation and the main purpose of its existence is to confront our country,” Peskov said.
Finland must decide on its NATO bid “thoroughly but quickly”, said Sanna Marin, the country’s prime minister, earlier this month. “Russia is not the neighbor we thought it was,” she insisted.
“I do not exclude NATO membership in any way,” her Swedish counterpart Magdalena Andersson pointed out at the end of March.
Both Helsinki and Stockholm have announced that they are now conducting reviews of their security policy. The Finnish review is expected to be completed in mid-April and the Swedish one at the end of May.
Finland’s Foreign Minister had previously suggested that if the country eventually decides to join the bloc, it could take between four and 12 months for the parliaments of the 30 NATO member states to officially approve the bid.
But NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg insisted that “the very decision to welcome Finland to NATO can be made very quickly and then it is a formal process in the capitals or parliaments to ratify it.”
Russia launched a large-scale offensive against Ukraine in late February, following Kiev’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk Accords signed in 2014, and Russia’s final recognition of the Donbass and Donetsk republics of Donetsk. The German- and French-mediated Minsk Protocol was designed to regulate the status of the regions of the Ukrainian state.
Russia has now demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kyiv insists that the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied allegations that it planned to retake the two rebel regions by force.