Finland wants to become a NATO member at the same time as Sweden. Last Minute UK, Russia headlines and events
Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said her country will stick to its plan to join NATO at the same time as neighboring Sweden, and hopes that NATO membership will not last longer than July.
Sweden and Finland, which applied for NATO membership last year after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, have faced objections from Turkey.
Turkey, Sweden and Finland signed a memorandum of understanding in Madrid to move the process forward, but Turkey suspended talks after protests were burned in Stockholm, Sweden’s capital.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said yesterday that Ankara could accept Finland’s accession to NATO before Sweden, and today Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu made a similar statement.
However, Finnish Foreign Minister Haavisto said that his country would continue to follow the same path as Sweden, which is its closest military partner in the process of joining NATO.
At a press conference in Hensinki, Haavisto said: “We really want to join NATO together with Sweden. “We told our future NATO partners, including Hungary and Turkey, that the security of Finland and Sweden will go hand in hand.”
A spokesman for the Swedish Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the matter.
Among the 30 NATO member countries, the only countries that did not approve the applications of Sweden and Finland for membership in NATO are Turkey and Hungary.
NATO summit in July marks a major turning point
Many experts say it will be difficult to make progress on Sweden’s and Finland’s NATO membership bids before Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections in May. However, Haavisto expressed hope that Sweden and Finland could become NATO members in the next few months.
“I view the NATO summit to be held in Vilnius in July as a major turning point, and I hope that by then at the latest both countries will be accepted as NATO members,” Haavisto said.
Turkey in particular wants Sweden to take a more open stance on the issue of most of the Kurdish militants and terrorists it calls responsible for the 2016 coup attempt.
Noting that Turkey takes security issues seriously, Sweden says it has complied with the tripartite memorandum of understanding signed last June. However, Ankara insists that Sweden is not taking sufficient steps.
This situation has given rise to speculation that Finland, which shares a 1,300-kilometer border with Russia, could continue the process of joining NATO without Sweden.
However, Finnish Foreign Minister Haavisto noted that the security guarantees given by the US, the UK and other NATO member states meant that Finland could be patient.
“We welcome these security guarantees, although they are not in line with NATO Article 5. These guarantees are very important to us,” said Haavisto.
Article 5 of NATO stipulates that all member states must make mutual defense obligations and states that an attack on one member will be accepted, not all members.
Why is the membership of the two countries important to NATO?
Technically, Finland could become a NATO member on its own; however, it is argued that without strategic land access via Sweden, it would be difficult to defend Finland from a NATO perspective.
Finland also says it may only consider another route if Sweden’s membership is permanently blocked by Turkey.
Finland has a 1,300 km long land border with Russia. The Swedish island of Gotland, the largest island in the Baltic Sea, is also 300 kilometers from Kaliningrad, home of Russia’s Baltic Fleet.
Both countries see joining NATO together as the best way to ensure their security for collective defence.
Finland has the ability to mobilize 285,000 troops and about 650 tanks. Sweden, which has a strong air force, also has a submarine fleet that adapts to the conditions of the Baltic Sea.
Strategically, the two countries are expected to close the gap in the front created by NATO against Russia, while at the same time giving the alliance a chance to reflect its might in the Baltic region.
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