Is now the time for Finland, Sweden to join NATO? - opinion

Moscow has warned that the two countries’ accession to NATO will have serious military and political consequences. It spoke of retaliatory measures.”

 US SECRETARY OF STATE Antony Blinken meets with Sweden’s Foreign Minister Ann Linde at the State Department earlier this month. According to ‘The Guardian,’ Linde said her country had received assurances from the US that it would receive support during this period. (photo credit: MICHAEL A. MCCOY/REUTERS)
US SECRETARY OF STATE Antony Blinken meets with Sweden’s Foreign Minister Ann Linde at the State Department earlier this month. According to ‘The Guardian,’ Linde said her country had received assurances from the US that it would receive support during this period.
(photo credit: MICHAEL A. MCCOY/REUTERS)

There is probably no more delicate time than now to admit new members to NATO or to implement NATO’s plans for eastward enlargement. Reports and indications suggest that Finland and Sweden are highly likely to apply to join the alliance in the coming weeks, especially before the summit in Spain at the end of June. US gung-ho enthusiasm for Finnish and Swedish accession seems unequivocal.

US Senator Tom Tillis spoke at a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee. He said he held consultations in Brussels with a number of other US lawmakers two weeks ago on joining Finland and Sweden to NATO, and met with a Swedish delegation in Washington. “In accordance with all signs, by the time the NATO summit was held at the end June, we will have a formal request [Finland and Sweden] to join.”

“We here (in the upper house of Congress) will do everything possible to speed up the process. I believe that it will receive broad bipartisan support [on Capitol Hill].” If they join NATO, Finland and Sweden will become “suppliers, not consumers of security,” said US Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth. “And I’m looking forward to their becoming members [of NATO].”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last week that Washington strongly supports Finland and Sweden’s attempt to join NATO when Helsinki and Stockholm are ready. US enthusiasm is matched by clear Russian irk.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Finland and Sweden would become a battleground between NATO and Russia if they joined the alliance, the consequences of which include the loss of good-neighborly relations that would be tested over time, and asked whether this was the wish of the people of the two countries.

RUSSIA’S PRESIDENT Vladimir Putin meets with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow two weeks ago. (credit: REUTERS)RUSSIA’S PRESIDENT Vladimir Putin meets with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow two weeks ago. (credit: REUTERS)

Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council, said that the attempt to deny the agreements signed between Russia and NATO, including the May 1997 Act, would lead to the possible deployment of Atlantic nuclear weapons on the territory of new countries, such as Finland and Sweden.

All this means that any decision by Finland and Sweden to formally join NATO would mean moving from neutrality to the hot front line, with all the risks that the current strategic situation entails. According to The Guardian, Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde said her country had received assurances from the US that it would receive support during this period.

“Of course, I won’t go into any details,” Linde told Swedish television in Washington after a meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. “But, I’m pretty sure we now have American confirmation,” “However, not concrete security guarantees, those you can only get if you are a full member of NATO,” Linde said.

However, the Swedish minister only acknowledged that these guarantees do not meet NATO’s obligations to its member states. That is, they are individual American guarantees.

Specifically, after refusing to disclose the nature of these guarantees, she said that the guarantees mean that if Russia can direct any kind of negative activity against Sweden that threatens its security, this is not something that the US will allow without a response.

However, Sweden fears, as its defense minister said last month, that Russian threats could include cyberattacks and hybrid measures – such as propaganda campaigns – to undermine Sweden’s security.

RUSSIA HAS explicitly warned that it could deploy nuclear weapons and supersonic missiles in the Kaliningrad enclave (Russia’s closest geographic points on the Baltic Sea from the Finnish and Swedish borders, as well as from Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia) if Sweden and Finland join NATO.

On the Finnish side, Prime Minister Sanna Marin has indicated in published remarks that she wants ratification from 30 NATO member states as soon as possible if her country or Sweden are to join the alliance. She considers this step as the best security guarantee for her country.

Marrin added that Helsinki is also holding talks with key NATO countries to obtain protection guarantees for the accession period, which could last several months. It is clear then, that the question of candidacy has been settled. The issue now is that the two countries have the “shortest possible ratification process” and receive the necessary security guarantees during the transition period.

Whatever the guarantees, they clearly do not satisfy the umbrella of protection provided by Article 5 of the Alliance’s founding treaty, known as the principle of collective defense, which ensures that NATO assets will be used to protect and assist any member state that is attacked by armed force.

All parties agree that any armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America is an attack against all of them, the treaty states.

They now agree that in the event of such an armed attack, each state will provide assistance in accordance with the right of individual or collective self-defense recognized in Article 51 of the UN Charter.

The attacked party or parties in taking such measures as it or they, alone or in concert with other parties, deem necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain security in the North Atlantic region, and that such armed attack and the action taken in response thereto shall be promptly reported to the Security Council.

These actions will end when the Security Council takes the necessary measures to restore and maintain international peace and security. The article was tested only once, after the September 11 attacks to assist the US in the fight against terrorism.

The most worrying element is the aggravation of tensions between Russia, Finland and Sweden in the transition period until formal accession to NATO, especially since the principle of collective defense is Moscow’s most sensitive element and always arouses the Kremlin’s ire. So, Russia might consider proactively preventing the two countries from joining NATO.

Moscow has warned that the two countries’ accession to NATO will have serious military and political consequences. It spoke of retaliatory measures.”

What is happening now is a historic turning point, especially for Finland, which remained neutral during the Cold War, and the NATO members’ enthusiasm for the two countries’ accession seems understandable, especially since the alliance wants to prevent any Russian war plans against Europe, and particularly Finland, which has the longest border of an EU state with Russia, at more than 1,300 km.

Although the official decision by Finland and Sweden to join NATO has not yet been announced, there is speculation that the move will come before the alliance’s summit late next month. This means that the crisis between Russia and the West will enter a new rat trap instead of finding a solution to what is happening in Ukraine.

The writer is a UAE political analyst and former Federal National Council candidate.