Tracking Sweden and Finland’s NATO Application

After negotiations, Turkey dropped its opposition to the countries’ accession, paving the way for a formal invitation to join at the recent NATO Summit in Madrid…

Sweden and Finland are both historically neutral (and, from their European Union accession, militarily non-aligned), but February’s invasion of Ukraine saw that identity come to an end. Both countries had been participating with NATO countries in military exercises for decades, and there was some political will to join, but the sudden change in stance from Sweden’s ruling Social Democratic party came, nevertheless, as a shock to the population where, in a survey before the invasion, just 37 per cent of respondents said they were in favour of joining the alliance. By May, 76 per cent of Finns and up to 60 per cent of Swedes approved of the joint bid, put forward by Finland’s president Sauli Niinistö and Sweden’s prime minister Magdalena Andersson. The change ends two hundred years of Swedish neutrality, that was central to its position on the world stage in the 1980s, and ends a more recent policy by Finland, which has been neutral since 1948.

Important: Both Sweden and Finland have always held large militaries, and both countries hold forms of mandatory military service.

The US and UK agreed a temporary military agreement to cover the ‘grey area’ before formal accession, and the joint application was welcomed by every country in the alliance, bar one. The only objection came from Turkey, whose president Recep Erdoğan accused the two countries of ‘supporting terrorism’, with particular attention falling on Swedish MP Amineh Kakabaveh, who is of Kurdish descend, and whose extradition Turkey demanded as a condition of entry, in response to her apparent support of Kurdish separatists. Ultimately, after talks between Finland, Sweden and Turkey, her extradition didn’t come to fruition. Instead, explaining why Turkey had agreed to support the application, NATO’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said Finland and Sweden had agreed to lift their restrictions on selling arms to Turkey. Erdoğan’s office said it had got what it wanted, and a formal invitation to join was extended by every nation in the alliance at the NATO Summit in Madrid on Wednesday 29th June 2022. The exact timetable for entry now remains open, but could last up to a year, as the process passes through national parliaments.

This article is a Fika Online exclusive.

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