cloudyn.png
Wednesday August 17th, 2022 3:51AM

EXPLAINER: Why Finland, Sweden joining NATO will be big deal

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

BRUSSELS (AP) — It’s likely to be the quickest NATO enlargement ever and one that would redraw Europe’s security map. Finnish leaders announced Thursday their belief that Finland should join the world’s biggest military organization because of Russia's war in Ukraine. Sweden could soon follow suit.

Should they apply for membership, the move would have far-reaching ramifications for Northern Europe and trans-Atlantic security.

No doubt, it will also anger their large neighbor Russia, which blames, at least in part, its war in Ukraine on NATO’s continued expansion closer to its borders. It's unclear how Russian President Vladimir Putin might retaliate. The Kremlin said Thursday that it certainly won't improve European security.

The following is a brief look at what Finland and Sweden's membership in the 30-country NATO alliance could mean, with the Nordic partners expected to announce their intention to join within days.

FINLAND AND SWEDEN

Not neutral like Switzerland, Finland and Sweden traditionally think of themselves as militarily “nonaligned.”

But Russia’s war in Ukraine and Putin’s apparent desire to establish a Moscow-centered “sphere of influence” has shaken their security notions to the core. Just days after he ordered the Feb. 24 invasion, public opinion shifted dramatically.

Support in Finland for NATO membership has hovered around 20-30% for years. It now stands at over 70%. The two are NATO’s closest partners but maintaining good ties with Russia has been an important part of their foreign policy, particularly for Finland.

Now they hope for security support from NATO states — primarily the United States — in case Moscow retaliates. Britain pledged on Wednesday to come to their aid.

THE NORDIC REGION

NATO membership for the two, joining regional neighbors Denmark, Norway and Iceland, would formalize their joint security and defense work in ways that their Nordic Defense Cooperation pact hasn't.

NORDEFCO, as it’s known, focuses on cooperation. Working within NATO means putting forces under joint command.

Accession would tighten the strategic Nordic grip on the Baltic Sea — Russia’s maritime point of access to the city of St. Petersburg and its Kaliningrad exclave.

Finland and Sweden also join them, along with Iceland, at the heart of the triangle formed with the North Atlantic and maritime areas in the Arctic, to where Russia projects its military might from the northern Kola Peninsula. Integrated NATO military planning will become a lot simpler, making the region easier to defend.

NATO

Finland and Sweden are NATO’s closest partners. They contribute to the alliance’s operations and air policing.

Most importantly, they already meet NATO’s membership criteria, on functioning democracies, good neighborly relations, clear borders and armed forces that are in lock-step with the allies. After the invasion, they formally boosted information exchanges with NATO and sit in on every meeting on war issues.

Both are modernizing their armed forces and investing in new equipment. Finland is purchasing dozens of high-end F-35 warplanes. Sweden has top quality fighter jets, the Gripen.

Finland says it’s already hit NATO’s defense spending guideline of 2% of gross domestic product. Sweden too is ramping up its military budget and expects to reach the target by 2028. The NATO average was estimated at 1.6% last year.

RUSSIA

Putin has demanded that NATO stop expanding and in his May 9 speech blamed the West for the war.

But public opinion in Finland and Sweden suggests that he has driven them into NATO’s arms.

If Finland joins, it would double the length of the alliance’s border with Russia, adding a further 1,300 kilometers (830 miles) for Moscow to defend.

Putin has promised a “military, technical” response if they join. But many troops from Russia’s western district near Finland were sent to Ukraine, and those units suffered heavy casualties, Western military officers say.

So far, Moscow is doing nothing obvious to dissuade the two — apart perhaps from a couple of incidents where Russian planes entered their airspace. The Kremlin said Thursday that its response could depend on how close NATO infrastructure moves toward Russia's borders.

Some at NATO worry that the Russians might deploy nuclear weapons or more hypersonic missiles to the Kaliningrad exclave, across the Baltic Sea wedged between allies Poland and Lithuania.

___

Karl Ritter in Stockholm, and Jari Tanner in Helsinki, contributed to this report.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Business
© Copyright 2022 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
North Korea confirms 1st COVID outbreak, Kim orders lockdown
North Korea has imposed a nationwide lockdown to control its first acknowledged COVID-19 outbreak of the pandemic
6:23AM ( 4 minutes ago )
EXPLAINER: Why Finland, Sweden joining NATO will be big deal
Finland appears on the cusp of joining NATO
6:21AM ( 6 minutes ago )
G7 foreign ministers meet to discuss Ukraine war, impacts
Top diplomats from the Group of Seven wealthy nations are gathering in northern Germany to discuss the war in Ukraine
6:17AM ( 11 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Biden marks 1M US COVID deaths, to co-host 2nd global summit
President Joe Biden will appeal for a renewed international commitment to attacking COVID-19 as the second global pandemic summit opens
5:35AM ( 52 minutes ago )
Finland's leaders advocate NATO membership 'without delay'
Finland’s president and prime minister say they’re in favor of applying for NATO membership
5:32AM ( 55 minutes ago )
Biden calls to congratulate presumptive Philippine president
President Joe Biden has called Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to congratulate him on his apparent landslide victory in the Philippine presidential election
5:31AM ( 56 minutes ago )
AP National News
China fights economic slump, sticks to costly 'zero COVID'
China’s leaders are struggling to reverse a deepening economic slump without giving up a “zero-COVID” strategy that shut down Shanghai and other cities
12:52AM ( 5 hours ago )
Biden hosts ASEAN as he looks to show Pacific commitment
President Joe Biden is hosting leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as his administration continues an effort to demonstrate that the United States hasn’t lost focus on the Pacific
12:09AM ( 6 hours ago )
Ukraine offers to swap prisoners for hurt Mariupol fighters
Ukraine offered to release Russian prisoners of war in exchange for the safe evacuation of the badly injured fighters trapped inside a steel mill in the ruined city of Mariupol
12:07AM ( 6 hours ago )
AP Online National News
Japan's SoftBank sinks to losses as investments sour
Japanese technology company SoftBank Group has dropped into losses as the value of its investments declines
5:32AM ( 55 minutes ago )
Years late, London's 'game-changer' subway line set to open
A new rail line that builders say will transform travel in London is set to open
5:28AM ( 1 hour ago )
Live updates | Finland in favor of joining NATO
Finland’s president and prime minister say they’re in favor of applying for NATO membership, paving the way for the alliance to expand in response to Russia’s war in Ukraine
3:53AM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Business
North Korea confirms 1st COVID outbreak, Kim orders lockdown
North Korea has imposed a nationwide lockdown to control its first acknowledged COVID-19 outbreak of the pandemic
6:23AM ( 4 minutes ago )
G7 foreign ministers meet to discuss Ukraine war, impacts
Top diplomats from the Group of Seven wealthy nations are gathering in northern Germany to discuss the war in Ukraine
6:17AM ( 11 minutes ago )
Army poised to revamp Alaska forces to prep for Arctic fight
U.S. Army leaders say they are poised to revamp forces in Alaska to better prepare for future cold-weather conflicts
6:14AM ( 14 minutes ago )
Finland's leaders call for NATO membership 'without delay'
Finland’s leaders say they’re in favor of rapidly applying for NATO membership
6:10AM ( 18 minutes ago )
North Korea fires suspected ballistic missile toward sea
North Korea fired a suspected ballistic missile toward sea on Thursday, South Korea and Japan said, hours after it confirmed the country’s first case of the coronavirus since the pandemic began
6:02AM ( 26 minutes ago )