Finland and Sweden may apply to enter NATO in the weeks ahead, given the fact that Europe’s safety picture has “completely changed” as a result of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. Sanna Marin, Finland’s prime minister, said on Wednesday that the Nordic nation, which maintains a 1,300-kilometer border with Russia, will make a decision “within weeks” as to whether to enter the US-led military bloc. After coming back from their Easter vacation, Finnish MPs are likely to consider the benefits and drawbacks of embracing the 30-member bloc.
“When Russia invaded Ukraine, everything changed,” Marin recently told reporters at a joint press conference in Stockholm along with her Swedish equivalent, Magdalena Andersson. “I believe that people’s perspectives in Finland, as well as Sweden, have changed and [have] been influenced drastically as a result of Russia’s activities. This is pretty evident, and it necessitated a process in Finland to debate our own security options,” Marin explained. Andersson agreed, clearly stating there was “no purpose” in postponing a decision on whether Sweden should apply for NATO membership.
Andersson added that MPs in Sweden, which doesn’t have a boundary with Russia and has not engaged in a conflict in more than 200 years, will consider the possibility of joining NATO in the following weeks. She had promised to keep Finland informed about Sweden’s stance and stated that each nation would have to make its own decision. “It’s also evident that we need to talk about multiple possibilities, and that none of them are risk-free,” she added. Marin’s and Andersson’s remarks are the clearest hint yet that the two Scandinavian nations may want to enter the military bloc soon, essentially ending their historical neutrality.
Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary-General, has consistently stated that Finland and Sweden must choose their own course. He has also stated that the organization’s “door stays open” to potential participants. Russia has consistently cautioned against any prospective NATO expansion, charging the organization of being “an instrument aimed towards hostility,” according to reports. But, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s nearly seven-week-long conflict in Ukraine has culminated in the mobilization of additional soldiers on NATO’s eastern flank, as well as a significant increase in popular backing for Finnish and Swedish inclusion.