Experts and analysts believe that it is indeed likely that Sweden and Finland join NATO, this being the most important addition since the Baltic states in 2004.
What if Sweden and Finland joined NATO
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was founded in 1949, on the aftermath of the Second World War and beginning of the Cold War, with the aim of European and North American states of building collective securityagainst the hazard presented by the Soviet Union. The alliance still remains active and has increased its membership from the 12 original to 30 at the moment.
The fact that the organization keeps having a reason for existence nowadays, having interfered in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Libya (among others), means a situation of tension with Russia, who does not sympathize with the enlargement of the alliance. Bordering countries have struggled to join or remain out of the treaty, as Russia interprets such a gesture as a red line for the maintenance of peace.
Article 5 of this North Atlantic Treaty stablishes that an attack on one member is considered as an attack against all. Thanks to such an article, that originally was to counterpart Soviet attacks to liberal democracies, keeps protecting smaller countries that lack military strength.
As a result of the current invasion of Ukraine carried out by Russia, the citizens of both Finland and Sweden, which are geographically located very close to the Russian border, have turned the public opinion in favour of joining NATO. Polls have resulted with 61% of Finns and 51% of Swedes willing to become members of the treaty, the time has come.
Procedures of this kind are never easy nor fast. So far, Finland seems more certain and moving forward than neighbouring Sweden, having already presented the matter to the Parliament who has comfortably passed and announced the appliance on May 17.
The process of joining NATO goes as follows: the organization has an open-door policy to which any European country can request entrance, technically it is not an appliance but an interest expression to which members reply by unanimous agreement with a formal invitation to join.
In detail, governments formally inform NATO their willingness to join, then the Council meets to authorize (by consensus) the secretary general to extend invitations to foreign ministers, later those negotiate the political, legal and military obligations. For Finland and Sweden, most of these requirements are already met: functioning democratic systems based on market economy, care for minorities, commitment to solve conflicts peacefullyand to democratic civil-military relations.
Considering previous cases, for some countries it has taken up to twenty months to finally become members of the alliance, however, in the current situation it is expected to jump from the negotiations straight to the ratifications (that need to be from thirty member states). Finally, if approved, aspirants receive a formal invitation to join.
Why had not joined before responds to historical reasons. Sweden maintains a neutrality policy since the 19th century, having let Nazi troops cross their territory to Finland but then welcoming Jewish refugees. In the case of Finland, it is a bit more complicated as its ties with neighbouring Russia have been closer; became independent after the Bolshevik revolution but then had an Agreement of Friendship.
"Everything has changed when Russia attacked Ukraine. And I personally think that we cannot trust anymore there will be a peaceful future next to Russia. [Joining NATO is] an act of peace [so] that there will never again be war in Finland in the future," Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said.
Sweden does not precise Parliament approval and its Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson has also confirmed that "To ensure the safety of Swedish people, the best way forward is to join NATO together with Finland."
These two countries are modern and own capable forces, plus they have just increased their military spendings in sight of the Russian invasion. Specifically Finland, has a small population but does not forget its shared border with mainland Russia, thus has the largest reserve force in Europe. Also Sweden has been strengthening its territorial defence and both of them have worked along the US and the EU in several crisis operations.
Experts and analysts believe that it is indeed likely that Sweden and Finland join NATO, this being the most important addition since the Baltic states in 2004. Leo Michel, former director of NATO policy at the Pentagon, suggests that their incorporation would effectively improve NATO’s capabilities in the regions of the Artic, Nordic and Baltic, as well as strategic location on an aggression scenario.
After decades of neutrality and on behalf of their own interest, Sweden and Finland will basically gain bilateral defence from the treaty, otherwise finding themselves vulnerable before a major-power attack.
Nevertheless, due to the fact that NATO is a nuclear-armed alliance, weapon to which these states oppose ideologically, Russia has posed threats of ending the nuclear-free status of the Baltics in the case of them finally joining. "NATO expansion does not make the world more stable and secure [Russia's reaction would depend on] how far and how close to our borders the military infrastructure will move", were words of Dmitry Peskov, Kremlin spokeperson.
Another difficulty derived from this possibility of addition comes from Turkey, a member of the NATO that has shown disagreement towards Sweden and Finland. President Erdogan has accused them of supporting Kurdish militia, considered by Turkey as terrorist organizations. However, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is confident that consensus will be reached.