NATO allies: Why are Finland and Sweden looking to join the alliance?
Putin has ‘lost touch with reality’ says former NATO general
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Russian President Vladimir Putin has previously warned against the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) from expanding its realm of influence towards Moscow. Similar cautions have also been sent to countries that are yet to join the alliance, such as Finland and Sweden. But it appears these warnings have not been heeded as both are expected to bid for NATO membership as early as this summer.
US officials believe it is only a matter of time before the two Nordic states join the military alliance.
Last week, US State Department officials said that discussions had taken place between NATO leaders and foreign ministers from Helsinki and Stockholm.
However, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has warned against either country joining the bloc, arguing “the alliance remains a tool geared towards confrontation”.
Last week, he said that Russia would have to “rebalance the situation” with its own measures if were Sweden and Finland to join NATO.
Why are Finland and Sweden looking to join NATO?
For long periods of their history, Finland and Sweden maintained a neutral stance in world politics.
But since Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February, public support for both countries to join NATO has rocketed.
In March, a poll by the newspaper Aftonbladet showed a majority of Swedes were in favour of NATO membership for the first time ever.
A recent survey in Finland also identified that 53 percent of Finns supported joining NATO. The number went up to 66 percent if Sweden were to join too.
Although Finland and Sweden are not yet members of the alliance, they have both signed up to its Partnership for Peace programme.
The format allows for flexible co-operation between the two parties and is generally seen as a trust-building outfit that may eventually lead to a full membership.
Despite threats from Russia of “military and political consequences” if either nation joined the bloc, both have continued discussions and increased their defence spending in recent weeks.
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Moscow’s foreign affairs spokeswoman Maria Zakharova had previously said: “Finland and Sweden should not base their security on damaging the security of other countries.”
On Monday, army leaders in Helsinki announced a new plan to allocate €14m (£10.88m) to purchase drones for Finland’s military.
Swedish officials have also said they would boost defence spending by three billion kronas ($317m; £243m) in 2022.
Later this week, Finnish MPs are expected to receive a security report from intelligence officials.
Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin has also said she expects her Government “will end the discussion before midsummer” on whether to make a membership application.
The country shares a 1,340km (830 miles) long border with Russia and has been rattled by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Sweden was similarly left unimpressed by Moscow’s actions, and reported incursions into its air space last month by four Russian jets.
Authorities quickly scrambled to escort the jets away in what officials labelled an “unacceptable” act.
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