Sweden and Finland have agreed to submit simultaneous membership applications to the US-led Nato alliance as early as the middle of next month, REUTERS has reported.
The Finnish daily Iltalehti said on Monday that Stockholm had “suggested the two countries indicate their willingness to join” on the same day, and that Helsinki had agreed “as long as the Swedish government has made its decision”.
Finland’s former prime minister Alexander Stubb said that I think we’re more NATO-ready than most of the alliance’s member states themselves. The basic line of thought is that if Putin can slaughter his brothers, sisters and cousins in Ukraine, he can do that in Finland and Sweden, as well, said Mr Stubb.
The Swedish newspaper Expressen cited government sources as confirming the report. The two countries’ prime ministers said this month they were deliberating the question, arguing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had changed Europe’s “whole security landscape” and “dramatically shaped mindsets” in the Nordic region.
Finland’s prime minister, Sanna Marin, said then that her country, which shares a 1,300km (810 mile) border with Russia, would decide whether to apply to join the alliance “quite fast, in weeks not months”, despite the risk of infuriating Moscow.
Her Swedish counterpart, Magdalena Andersson, said Sweden had to be “prepared for all kinds of actions from Russia” and that “everything had changed” when Moscow attacked Ukraine. Russia has repeatedly warned both countries against the move.
The Kremlin said it would be forced to “restore military balance” by strengthening its defences in the Baltic, including by deploying nuclear weapons, if the two countries decided to abandon decades of military nonalignment by joining Nato.
Sweden’s foreign minister, Ann Linde, said last week a wide-ranging security policy review would be concluded by 13 rather than 31 May as originally planned, adding that with Finland’s analysis already published “there is now a lot of pressure”.
A sports centre in Helsinki can quickly be turned into a bomb shelter to accommodate more than 6,000 people.
Expressen said the simultaneous applications could be submitted in the week of 16 May, coinciding with a state visit to Stockholm by the Finnish president Sauli Niinistö. The Guardian could not independently confirm the reports.
Recent opinion polls have shown as many as 68% of Finns are in favour of joining the alliance, more than double the figure before the invasion, with only 12% against. Polling in Sweden suggests a slim majority of Swedes also back membership.
Finland and Sweden will be able to join NATO quickly if they decide to ask for membership in the Western military alliance, the organisation’s secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg says.
But once members, Finland and Sweden would benefit from NATO’s collective defence clause, which obliges all members to come to the aid of any ally that comes under attack.
Both countries are officially nonaligned militarily, but became Nato partners – taking part in exercises and exchanging intelligence – after abandoning their previous stance of strict neutrality when they joined the EU in 1995 after the end of the cold war.
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