Sweden Declares NATO Membership Bid Hours After Neighboring Finland

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by Tyler Durden
Sunday, May 15, 2022 - 07:35 PM

The big news in Europe Sunday was the president of Finland Sauli Niinisto along with Prime Minister Sanna Marin formally announcing the country is applying to NATO. Niinisto had also phoned his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, who reportedly took the news "calmly" according to Helsinki's description of the phone call. Putin only warned that it "could have a negative effect on Russia-Finland relations" - despite foreign ministry officials days ago issuing specific threats of "military and technical" retaliation.

On the same day a mere hours later, and as fully expected based on prior statements, Sweden's ruling party formally affirmed Stockholm's simultaneous application to NATO. "Sweden's ruling Social Democratic Party on Sunday said it was in favor of joining NATO, reversing its decades-long opposition and paving the way for the country to submit a membership application," AFP reported.

Like with Finland, prior to Russia's invasion of Ukraine public support for joining the Western military alliance was low, with the country content to stay neutral on the issue, and with amicable relations with Moscow.

The statement introduced a key caveat amid prior warnings from Kremlin officials that the Scandinavian countries joining NATO could result in nuclearization of the Baltic region. "The Social Democrats will thereby work to ensure that Sweden, if the application is approved, expresses unilateral reservations against the deployment of nuclear weapons and permanent bases on Swedish territory," the party said in its statement.

The statement out of Sweden stopped short of being as definitive as Finland's, and didn't recommend concrete steps toward joining, but stressed that for the country it is "not realistic to develop bilateral defense alliances outside existing European and Euro-Atlantic structures."

It also said that "within the framework of current cooperation, there is no guarantee that Sweden would be helped if it were the target of a serious threat or attack."

Sweden has been historically and proudly neutral, not having been part of any external military alliance for over 200 years, though engaged in closer cooperation with NATO forces going back to the 1990s.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg weeks ago said that both Finland and Sweden would be welcomed with "open arms" - suggesting also that given the circumstances of war in eastern Europe they could be 'fast-tracked' for entry.

Finland admission is seen as much more controversial given its 810-mile border with Russia. But as Axios notes, "Sweden does not share a border with Russia, but has long feared the possibility of Moscow invading Gotland — a strategically located island in the Baltic Sea viewed as critical to the defense of the region."