Belgium, (Brussels Morning) Finland and Sweden are a step closer from joining NATO membership, less than two months after the military conflict unleashed in Ukraine. The PMs of the Scandinavian countries met today in Stockholm to discuss regional security aspects.
According to Swedish media SvD, the country’s goal is to join NATO in June this year. The information comes in parallel with Finland today presenting its new security policy analysis and the Swedish Social Democrats drawing up the plan to deal with the issue internally.
After the joint meeting, Finland’s PM Sanna Marin said she could not give a timetable for a decision on whether the country would join NATO, however, she said the decision would be quicker than expected — weeks, not months away.
As for Sweden’s PM Magdalena Andersson, she said the country would not rush a decision, but the country’s assessment of the security situation is being cautiously assessed.
On 11 April, Finland’s foreign minister Pekka Haavisto said that it was “important” that neighboring Sweden was following a “similar process” regarding NATO membership.
“But of course we exchange information all the time and, hopefully, if we make similar kinds of decisions, we could do them around the same time,” said Haavisto.
Both countries have received public assurances from the NATO secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, that their applications would be welcome, as well as expressions of support from several members including the US, UK, Germany, France and Turkey.
Yet, the move has been perceived by Russia as a provocation, threatening the country’s borders and security. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned on 11 April that expanding NATO wouldn’t bring any more stability to Europe.
“We have repeatedly said that the alliance itself is more of a tool for confrontation. This is not an alliance that provides peace and stability, and further expansion of the alliance, of course, will not lead to more stability on the European continent,” he said.
Peskov added that should NATO expand near Russia’s borders, Moscow “would have to rebalance the situation with its own measures”.
Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova warned against other countries attempting to join NATO after Russia started the conflict with Ukraine.
“Finland and Sweden should not base their security on damaging the security of other countries and their accession to NATO can have detrimental consequences and face some military and political consequences,” said Zakharova.
She argued that while every state has a sovereign right to choose ways of ensuring its security, all members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) confirmed their adherence to the principle that the security of one state shouldn’t be achieve to the detriment of another country’s security.
The Russian spokesperson hinted to potential pressure being done to both Sweden and Finland to join the military bloc.
On his speech ahead of Ukraine’s invasion, denouncing US foreign policy and NATO expansion, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said that in December 2021, Russia “made an attempt to reach an agreement with the US and its allies on the principles of European security and NATO’s non-expansion”.
“Our efforts were in vain,” said Putin. “The US has not changed its position. It doesn’t find it necessary to agree with Russia on a matter that is critical for us”.
Noting that Russia is “extremely realistic in its assessments”, Putin accused the US/NATO of pursuing its own objectives, while neglecting Russian’s interests.
“It is true that they [US/NATO] have considerable financial, scientific, technological, and military capabilities (…) but today’s Russia remains one of the most powerful nuclear states.”