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Finland’s NATO membership: No restrictions on nuclear deployment

The Finnish government's bill on membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization does not contain restrictions on bringing nuclear weapons into Finland or establishing NATO bases.

Published: November 4, 2022, 7:03 am

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    The F-35A fighters that Finland also acquired can be equipped with tactical nuclear weapons if necessary.

    Foreign and security policy sources told Finnish news outlet Iltalehti that the government’s bill allowed the Atlantic defense alliance to deploy nuclear weapons to Finnish territory.

    The bill on Finland’s accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is practically ready. It will be submitted to the opinion round soon.

    The draft law also does not set any restrictions on the establishment of NATO bases in the territory of the Finnish state, nor does it limit the presence of forces from the member countries of the defense alliance.

    The possibility of bringing nuclear weapons into the territory of Finland is important because, ultimately, NATO’s preventive deterrence against Russia relies on the nuclear weapons of the United States and Britain.

    “It would be stupid to set thresholds for yourself, which in reality could make it difficult to defend Finland,” emphasized one of the sources.

    A promise to NATO

    According to sources, Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (Green) and Defense Minister Antti Kaikkonen (Centre) gave a commitment in the membership talks with NATO in July that Finland would not make restrictions or national reservations about its NATO membership in its accession agreement.

    Finland is willing to join NATO without restrictions with all rights and obligations, the ministers emphasized in the membership discussions.

    Recently, American B-52 bombers flew in NATO’s annual nuclear weapons exercises somewhere in the alliance’s airspace, probably over the North Sea and near the Arctic regions. Russia’s nuclear arsenal can be found, for example, in the north, in the Murmansk marshes.

    The sources emphasize that it would be difficult to draw up Finland’s new defense plan in NATO, if nuclear weapons could not be brought into Finland’s airspace, for example.

    “The world and nuclear weapons are very different than in 1949, when NATO was founded and Norway declared nationally that there would be no nuclear weapons on its territory. Today, there are many tactical nuclear weapons that can also be carried by F-35 fighters,” one foreign and security policy source points out.

    F-35 fighters have nuclear weapon readiness

    Finland is acquiring F-35 fighters, the first of which will be deployed in Lapland’s air force in 2026. Full operational performance with F-35A aircraft will be achieved in 2030, when all 64 aircraft will be in service.

    If the Finnish government decides so, the Air Force’s next fighters can carry, for example, US tactical B61-12 nuclear weapons, with which the F-35A fighters can be equipped in real-world situations. This would require Finnish pilots to be trained in their use.

    It can be considered certain that in the future Finnish F-35 fighters will practice protecting American strategic bombers in the north. These bombers can carry nuclear weapons. Norwegian and Swedish fighters have already participated in such exercises.

    When Finland becomes a full member of NATO, Finns will be able to join NATO’s Nuclear Planning Group. Only at this stage is Finland’s new defense plan completed, which is secret.

    Of the member states, only France does not participate in the planning of NATO’s joint nuclear defense.

    Finnish foreign and security policy sources say that, according to their information, Sweden also does not impose restrictions on the content of its membership. Therefore, it would also be possible to import nuclear weapons into Sweden’s territory if necessary.

    In Finland, the government proposal is written in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. According to IL’s information, the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of the Interior and the Office of the President of the Republic participated in its preparation.

    Nuclear-free NATO?

    Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (Green) and Defense Minister Antti Kaikkonen (Center) talked about the draft outlining Finland’s NATO membership at a press conference last week, while Turkey and Hungary’s membership ratifications are still awaited.

    According to Haavisto, Finland’s NATO membership supports the alliance’s defense and simplifies it, for example, in the Baltic Sea region.

    According to Defense Minister Kaikkonen, Finland was already very compatible with NATO before membership. According to him, that is illustrated by the fact that the membership negotiations were completed in one day.

    The draft expressly states that nuclear weapons are a key part of NATO’s deterrence alongside conventional weapons and missile defense capabilities.

    Walking back nuclear deployment

    At the press briefing, Iltalehti editor Kreeta Karvala asked the ministers for a more precise position on Finland’s nuclear weapons policy in NATO and especially in crisis situations.

    Foreign Minister Haavisto stated that Finland has no goal of getting nuclear weapons to Finland.

    “We do not aim to get nuclear weapons here. NATO has permanent structures in these matters, and according to my information, the United States has no intention of increasing the number of nuclear weapons in Europe,” Haavisto said at the press conference.

    The foreign minister also emphasized that NATO’s goal was a “nuclear-weapon-free Europe”. According to him, “NATO’s goal is a world without nuclear weapons, and it should be reached through a negotiation process where everyone is involved”.

    For now, the Nuclear Energy Act and the Criminal Code allegedly limit the deployment of nuclear weapons in Finland.

    Currently, for example, according to the Nuclear Energy Act, “the importation of nuclear explosives as well as their manufacture, possession and detonation in Finland is prohibited.” However, according to Haavisto, the laws can be changed later if there is a need.

    Kaikkonen emphasized in his answer that Finland accepted NATO’s nuclear weapons policy, but at this stage the defense minister did not want to take a position on, for example, possible NATO nuclear weapons training on Finnish soil.

    “The reality is that nuclear weapons are not being forced into Finland and Sweden,” Kaikkonen claimed.

    The annual costs of NATO membership and joining its administrative bodies and command structure are estimated to be around 70–100 million euros for Finland.

    The draft outlines that Finland’s NATO membership can be approved in the parliament with a simple majority, i.e. more than half of the MPs would be enough. Parliament can also start processing the proposal even before all member countries, i.e. Hungary and Turkey, have ratified Finland’s membership.

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