Football fans express disdain for NATO. Stock photo from Pixabay
Helsinki

Joint Swedish and Finnish application for NATO membership

According to information to Finnish and Swedish newspapers, the Swedish and Finnish governments must agree to submit NATO applications at the same time, something that will take place as early as mid-May. The Swedish people are thus not given the opportunity to choose their fate – instead the decision is made behind closed doors.

Published: April 27, 2022, 11:17 am

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    On Monday, the Finnish newspaper Iltalehti reported that the Swedish government had expressed a wish to Finland to submit simultaneous applications for NATO membership. The newspaper reported that it was now agreed between the countries to announce such an application during week 20, sometime between 16 and 22 May.

    According to Swedish daily Expressen, Swedish government sources have confirmed the information, which is further supported by the fact that Aftonbladet reported that it had received information about concrete promises of military protection from the United States and Great Britain in a NATO application. Furthermore, the information on the dates coincides with the arrival of Finnish President Sauli Niinistö in Stockholm on 17-18 May.

    But the accelerated process, which is largely conducted behind closed doors, also means that the Swedish people are not given any chance of democratic influence over the outcome – which increasingly points to a Swedish membership in NATO.

    The Social Democrats are moving against the will of their own party

    Although there is currently a large majority supporting an application for membership in NATO, both in the Riksdag and among the Swedish people, the government has not yet made an official decision on the matter.

    The Social Democrats have long been opposed to a Swedish membership in the defense alliance NATO, something that was not least noticed at the party’s congress in November where a majority voted to maintain the Swedish neutrality policy. The opposition of their own voters and party members was evident when it came to NATO membership, but the party leadership has turned the issue around and also made a decision that allows the party leadership to ignore what the party members want.

    The Social Democrats stated last week through the party secretary Tobias Baudin that a decision on the NATO issue can be made by the party board sometime from 12 May. They also held a marathon meeting with the parliamentary group on Friday, but claimed that no decision had been reached then.

    Minister of Social Insurance Ardalan Shekarabi is one of the members of the Riksdag who made a statement after the meeting. Shekarabi is now among the first high-ranking members of the Social Democratic Party who openly say they are positive about Swedish membership.

    On Twitter, Swedish Radio’s political commentator Fredrik Furtenbach underscored that the Minister of Social Insurance “leaned towards a yes”, even though he has not fully decided.

    “Freedom of alliance must not become a dogma,” Shekarabi said, according to Furtenbach. The Minister added: “I’m not sure it serves us well.”

    People are not given the opportunity to decide

    The Swedish people are given, regardless of what the Social Democrats decide, no choice in the important issue. The accelerated negotiations between Sweden, Finland and important NATO countries, such as the United States, mean that the government has time to decide on the issue, assured of strong majority support in the Riksdag, before the autumn elections. Most things also take place behind closed doors and the democratic transparency for Swedes in one of the most important issues of our time is close to zero.

    More and more signs indicate that a Swedish application for membership in NATO, which according to almost all pundits will be accepted without much fuss due to Sweden’s important strategic location, domestic military capacity and not least because of an extensive, high-tech and NATO-adapted weapons production.

    At the same time, according to Expressen, extensive talks have also been held with other NATO countries to ensure support for a Swedish application and other preparations in the Government Offices. According to information from Aftonbladet, Sweden has received concrete promises of military protection from the United States and Great Britain – in what must now be seen as a highly probable NATO application.

    “The government has received information from, among others, the US and the UK about what the protection and support can look like during a possible application process,” a government source told the newspaper.

    Regardless of whether the Swedish voters vote for a party such as Alternative for Sweden, which is one of the few remaining parties in Swedish politics that is opposed to membership in NATO, as they would rather see an expanded Swedish defense and defense cooperation with Finland, the decision on NATO membership is likely to have already been taken and will practically not be possible to change before it is too late.

    Finland tried to end speculation on a specific timetable however, with Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto saying no fixed date had been set for any potential application even if it would be “useful” for Sweden and Finland to launch joint NATO membership bids.

    Baltic balance

    Russia is opposed to a nuclear-armed Baltic region which would be established if Finland and Sweden become NATO members. “If Sweden and Finland join NATO, the length of the alliance’s land borders with the Russian Federation will more than double. Naturally, these borders will have to be strengthened,” Dmitry Medvedev, former president and deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, said on his official Telegram channel earlier this month, alluding to additional nuclear deployments in Europe.

    Russia will be forced to “seriously strengthen the grouping of land forces and air defense, deploy significant naval forces in the waters of the Gulf of Finland. In this case, it will no longer be possible to talk about any nuclear-free status of the Baltic – the balance must be restored,” he explained.

    Finland shares an 1336 km border with Russia.

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