Finland and Sweden pave way for joint NATO bid

What you need to know about Finland and Sweden’s possible NATO membership

After a decade outside of military alliances, Finland announced on Sunday its candidacy for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Sweden may follow, due to their concerns about -vis -vis Russia after the invasion of Ukraine.

For a decade most Swedes and Finns have been wedded to their long policy of military non-alignment. But the invasion of Ukraine on February 24 marked a drastic turning point, especially for Finland, which shares a border of nearly 1,300 kilometers with Russia.

While support for integration has hovered around 20% to 30% for twenty years, the latest polls have now found that more than 70% of Finns and 50% of Swedes have provided support. In both countries, many parties have been or are in the process of changing their position on the issue.

In the Finnish Parliament, a majority-river in favor of membership is emerging. In Sweden, the Social Democratic Party, historically allied to join NATO, decides this Sunday, with a green light paving the way for a candidacy of the country.

  • Neutrality and non-alignment

Ceded by Sweden to Russia in 1809, the Finland proclaimed its independence from Russia during the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. Invaded by the Soviet Union in 1939, the country resisted during the three months of the “Winter War”. After the resumption of the conflict in 1941, Finland was forced into an armistice. Finnish leaders agree to stay out of Western military cooperation in a form of enforced neutrality that has gone down in history as “finlandization”.

The country escapes the rank of satellite state of the USSR, but remains under the eye of Moscow on its foreign and military policy. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Finland joined the European Union (1995) and NATO’s Partnership for Peace, but subsequently remained militarily non-aligned.

The Sweden, for almost two centuries it maintained an official policy of neutrality inherited from the end of the Napoleonic wars, particularly during the two world wars. If it participated in military missions in Afghanistan or more recently in Mali, it has not been at war since a conflict in 1814 with Norway.

In the 1990s, its policy of neutrality was amended to military non-alignment “aim to enable” neutrality in the event of war.

  • Army: massive reserves in Finland, reinvestment in Sweden

During the Cold War, Sweden and Finland devoted significant resources (4% to 5% of their gross domestic product) to their armies, a consequence of their absence of military allies. With the Soviet threat gone, both returned their credits, but Finland ended up with a heavy reliance on military service and reservists.

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