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Finland and Sweden are set to apply for NATO membership.

  • Category
    International Relations
  • Published
    23rd May, 2022

Context

Finland and Sweden could apply for membership of the 30-nation NATO alliance within days, ending decades of military non-alignment in a historic shift triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

About

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO):

  • NATO is an intergovernmental military alliance30 different countries from Europe, North American and Asia.
  • It was established by the North Atlantic Treaty (also called the Washington Treaty) of April 4, 1949, which sought to create a counterweight to Soviet armies stationed in Central and Eastern Europe after World War II. 
  • Original member: Its original members were Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States
  • The heart of NATO is expressed in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, in which the signatory members agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and collective action must be taken to assist party or parties so attacked.
  • Headquarter: The NATO headquarters are located in Brussels, Belgium, while the headquarters of Allied Command Operations is near Mons, Belgium.
  • Member countries: Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, UK and USA.
  • North Macedonia is the latest entry in the organization

Why are Finland and Sweden not already members?

  • Both considered that joining the alliance would represent an unnecessary provocation of Moscow, and so have long pursued policies of neutrality, and then non-alignment, to avoid antagonising a major regional power.
  • Finland’s concerns have been largely practical:
  • It shares an 810-mile (1,300km) border with Russia, declared independence in 1917 after more than a century of rule by Moscow, and
  • Its army twice fought off Soviet forces during the Second World War before ceding about 10% of its territory.
  • Sweden’s opposition to NATO membership has been more ideological.
  • Its post-war foreign policy has focused on multilateral dialogue and nuclear disarmament and it has long seen itself as a mediator on the international stage, running down its military after the end of the cold war.

Would NATO welcome them?

  • Both countries switched from formal neutrality to military non-alignment in 1995 when they joined the EU.
  • They are already NATO partners, taking part in exercises and exchanging intelligence with the alliance.
  • Finland already meets NATO’s defence spending target of 2% of GDP, while Sweden is on course to do so.
  • From the military perspective, the addition of Finland’s and Sweden’s armed forces would represent a major boost to NATO’s assets in northern Europe, filling a hole in the alliance’s defences by doubling the length of its border with Russia and improving security and stability in the Baltic region.
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