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Explainer: What you need to know about Finland and Sweden’s path to NATO membership

Norwegian and Swedish army medics simulate the evacuation of a field hospital as part of military exercise called “Cold Response 2022”, gathering around 30,000 troops from NATO member countries plus Finland and Sweden, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Setermoen in the Artic Circle, Norway, March 25 2022. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo
  • Summary
  • Ukraine war changed public opinion in Finland and Sweden
  • Coming week crucial in decision on joining NATO
  • More a question of when, not if, they will apply
  • Both want security guarantees in any transition period

HELSINKI/STOCKHOLM, May 11 (Reuters) – Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Finland and Sweden have been considering applying for membership of the NATO military alliance, which would mark a major policy shift for the Nordic region.



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Here is the latest about the process and the key points under discussion:


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The coming days are crucial. On Thursday, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto is expected to give his backing for Finland to join NATO. read more

Niinisto leads Finland’s foreign policy in cooperation with the government and his stance is considered decisive for the application.

The Finnish government and parliament are also expected to give their approvals for the decision shortly.

In Sweden, parliament is conducting a security policy review, including the pros and cons of joining the alliance, with the results due on Friday. There is already a majority in parliament in support of NATO membership.

In parallel, the ruling Social Democrats, the biggest party in every election for the past 100 years, will decide on Sunday whether to drop long-standing opposition to NATO membership. read more

If Finland applies, Sweden is likely to do the same, as it would not want to be the sole Nordic outsider. Other Nordic countries – Norway, Denmark and Iceland – joined the pact as founding members.

Several recent polls suggest a majority of Swedes in favour – something never seen before Russia’s invasion. read more


Finland and Sweden would like to have some guarantees that NATO member nations would defend them while any application is processed and until they became full members.

Ratification can take a year, NATO diplomats say, as parliaments of all 30 NATO countries need to approve new members.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said the countries could join “quickly” and that he was sure arrangements could be found for the interim period. read more

On Wednesday, Britain pledged support to Sweden and Finland should they come under attack. Both have also received assurances from the United States and Germany. read more

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Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto acknowledged filing a membership application by itself would not bring the two countries under the umbrella of NATO’s Article 5, which guarantees that an attack on one ally is an attack on all.

“But at the same time NATO member countries have an interest in that no security breaches would take place during the application period,” Haavisto said. Finland could, for instance, hold enhanced military exercises with NATO members during that time. read more


Moscow has repeatedly warned of “serious consequences” if Finland and Sweden join NATO, saying it would have to strengthen its land, naval and air forces in the Baltic Sea, and raised the possibility of deploying nuclear weapons in the area. read more

Russia and Finland share a 1,300-km (810-mile) border. The Kola Peninsula, in Arctic northwest Russia pointing eastward from the border with Finland and Norway, is a “strategic bastion” Moscow considers key for its national security, and is also the home of the Russian Northern Fleet.

Russia’s second biggest city, St. Petersburg, lies some 170 km from the border with Finland.

Additional reporting by Robin Emmott in Brussels, Editing by Gwladys Fouche, Tomasz Janowski and Angus MacSwan

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


MAY 11, 2022

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