Helsinki – Sweden will not find itself in a vulnerable security situation even if Finland joins NATO first, the Finnish president said on Sunday, as both Nordic membership candidates negotiate bilateral military pacts with the United States.
“It is possible that Finland will join NATO before Sweden,” Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said in an interview published by SVT on Sunday. “Should we have refused Turkey’s offer to ratify?” It sounds a little crazy. It would have been a terribly difficult situation if we had said no to Ankara.’
Niinisto referred to his Friday visit to Ankara where Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his government would move forward with ratifying Finland’s NATO application, paving the way for the country to join the military bloc, but would not ratify Sweden’s bid ahead of disputes between Ankara and Stockholm is resolved.
Both Finland and Sweden applied to become NATO members 10 months ago in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, abandoning decades of non-alignment.
NATO requires the unanimous approval of its 30 existing members to expand, and Turkey and Hungary are the only countries yet to ratify the Nordic duo’s bid.
Should Sweden’s NATO membership talks with Turkey drag on, many Swedish security policy experts agree that it would put Stockholm in a vulnerable military position in the Baltic Sea region.
Niinisto said that Finland, Sweden and Denmark are currently in separate talks with the United States on security issues to reach a bilateral military pact similar to the one Norway has made with Washington in the past.
“I think it’s a big change, almost bigger than NATO membership,” Niinisto said of the ongoing talks with the US when asked what would happen to Sweden’s security if talks to join NATO drag on. “It means a lot if we (the Nordic countries) all have a direct and fairly equal (military) agreement with the United States.”
Since Finland and Sweden announced their intention to join NATO in May 2022, Finland and Sweden promised to join the Western military alliance at the same time.
Niinisto told SVT that the Nordic neighbors were determined to join NATO “hand in hand as long as it is in our hands, but the ratification of Finnish NATO membership is in the hands of Turkey and Hungary.”