Finland and Sweden’s entry into NATO is not a threat to Russia, but military expansion will provoke a response

Finland and Sweden are set to end decades of neutrality by joining NATO, a dramatic shift in European security and geopolitics triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The two Nordic nations had long kept the military alliance at bay, even looking at Russia to the east with caution.

But Moscow’s assault on Ukraine has sparked new security concerns across the region, and the leaders of every country have signaled their desire to join the bloc after more than 75 years of military non-alignment.

What has happened so far? Finland’s leaders announced their intention to join NATO on Thursday and made the wish official at a press conference on Sunday.

On Sunday in Sweden, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson announced at a press conference her party’s support for the country’s candidacy for NATO.

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson gives a press conference after a meeting at the ruling Social Democrat headquarters in Stockholm, Sweden, May 15.
Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson gives a press conference after a meeting at the ruling Social Democrat headquarters in Stockholm, Sweden, May 15. (Fredrik Persson/TT News Agency/AFP/Getty Images)

The decision must be approved by a vote in the parliament of each country, but given the support of the governments in power, this obstacle should be easily overcome.

What happens afterwards? NATO has what it calls an “open door policy” on new members – any European country can apply to join, as long as it meets certain criteria and all existing members are deal.

Technically, a country does not “ask” to join; Article 10 of its founding treaty states that once a nation has expressed interest, existing member states “may, by unanimous agreement, invite any other European state in a position to promote the principles of this treaty… to join”.

NATO diplomats told Reuters that ratification of new members could take a year as the legislatures of the current 30 members must approve new nominees.

Finland and Sweden already fulfill many of the conditions for membership, which includes have a functioning democratic political system based on a market economy; treat minority populations fairly; commit to resolving conflicts peacefully; the ability and willingness to make a military contribution to NATO operations; and commit to democratic civil-military relations and institutions.

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin gives a press conference to announce that Finland will apply for NATO membership at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland on May 15.
Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin gives a press conference to announce that Finland will apply for NATO membership at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland on May 15. (Alessandro Rampazzo/AFP/Getty Images)

The process may not be without obstacles; Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday he did not view the two countries’ “positive” NATO membership, accusing them of harboring Kurdish “terrorist organisations”.

In the meantime, both countries will have to rely on their current allies and partners for security guarantees, rather than on Article 5 – the clause which states that an attack on a NATO country is an attack on all and triggers a collective response in this one event.

Sweden and Finland have received assurances of support from the United States and Germany in the event of an attack, while British Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed mutual security agreements with his Finnish and Swedish counterparts last week. .

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Finland and Sweden want to join NATO.  Here's how it works and what comes next

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