Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted Finland and Sweden to consider joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), but Russia has warned against the move.
- Reports suggest the two Nordic countries could join as early as June
- Sweden’s ruling party has until now rejected NATO membership
- It says Russia’s invasion has fundamentally changed the security situation
Russia said on Monday local time that the possible accession of Sweden and Finland to the NATO military alliance would not bring stability to Europe.
“We have repeatedly said that the alliance remains a tool geared towards confrontation and its further expansion will not bring stability to the European continent,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said.
Sweden’s ruling Social Democrat party, which has so far rejected NATO membership, is reviewing its international security policy in the light of Ukraine’s invasion, it said on Monday.
The Social Democrats, the biggest party in parliament and ruling as a single-party minority government, have consistently rejected calls to join NATO, arguing that military non-alignment has served the country well.
But increasingly belligerent Russia has forced a rethink across the political spectrum in both Sweden and neighboring Finland, which is also outside the 30-member NATO alliance.
Daily Swedish newspaper DN quoted Social Democrat party secretary Tobias Baudin saying the review would be complete before the summer.
Finland is expected to outline its path regarding NATO in the coming weeks, with reports the two countries could join as early as June.
Ruling party invites members to reconsider NATO stance
The Social Democrats reaffirmed their policy of military non-alliance in November last year and their stance is widely seen as the biggest hurdle to an application for NATO membership.
“The Social Democrats are the key [to membership]”Peter Esaiasson, political science professor at Gothenberg University, said.
Four center-right opposition parties back a NATO application, with the leader of a fifth saying he wanted his party to support joining if Finland goes ahead as well.
The Left and Green parties are against membership.
The Social Democrats said the review was more than a discussion about whether or not to join NATO and aimed to give members the opportunity to give their views on all aspects of security policy.
Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and party leadership could still decide to apply to join NATO without the backing of the membership “if the need for a different security policy arises during the [review] process, “the Social Democrats said.
Finland makes swift U-turn on NATO
Late last week, Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said Finland will clarify its next steps regarding a possible decision to seek NATO membership in the coming weeks.
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, opinion polls commissioned by Finnish media outlets have shown a swift U-turn in public opinion in Finland with the majority now favoring joining the US-led NATO.
Finland, a European Union member state, shares 1,300 km border with Russia.
Mr Haavisto said Russia’s invasion had shown that Russia is willing to take increasing risks in its military operations, can quickly mobilize more than 100,000 troops against a neighboring country and has mooted more openly than before the possible use of its nuclear and biological weapons.
“There we come to a situation in which we may need cooperation,” Mr Haavisto said, alluding to NATO.
He added that NATO member countries have offered to help Finland with ensuring security during an application process and said they estimate it would take from four months to one year to approve the application.
“There is an important NATO summit in Madrid in June. Of course, NATO is wondering whether Finland and possibly Sweden will have submitted their membership applications before that,” Mr Haavisto said.
He said the government will next week give the Finnish parliament a review on how Russia’s decision to attack Ukraine has changed Finland’s security.
But he added the government was prepared to quickly propose joining NATO if there was sufficient support from parliament.