The move will more than double the length of NATO’s border with Russia. Meanwhile, the wait for Sweden’s admission continues.
The new flagpole has already been erected in front of the NATO headquarters north-east of Brussels. This afternoon, the Finnish flag is to be hoisted for the first time. NATO foreign ministers will welcome Finland as the 31st member of the western alliance.
Actually, Sweden should also be there. Pressure was exerted on the two problem partners in the alliance, Turkey and Hungary, to finally give the green light for the admission of both Scandinavian countries, most recently two weeks ago by Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock.
“At the NATO summit in Madrid last summer, we jointly laid the foundation for accession,” Baerbock reminded Turkish President Erdogan and Hungarian Prime Minister Orban of their commitment. “And of course we expect all NATO members to implement this decision without further delay.”
Türkiye and Hungary are blocking for different reasons
Baerbock was not alone with her warnings – which did not impress the two rulers with authoritarian ambitions and a notorious tendency to try out their veto options. However, in March both gave up their opposition to Finland’s accession. But the admission of Sweden is still being delayed – albeit with different explanations in Ankara and Budapest.
The Turkish President accuses the government in Stockholm of being too generous with militant Kurds, including the banned Kurdish Workers’ Party PKK. A whole syndrome of aversions to Sweden seems to have been brewing for Hungary’s Prime Minister Orbàn. Since 2015, Sweden’s migration policy has seemed too liberal to him, Swedish criticism of its problems with the rule of law too brash and, according to the Hungarian media, Orbàn also felt the Swedish efforts to force his Fidesz party out of the conservative party family of the EPP as an insult. However, Hungarian opposition politicians also believe it is possible that Orbàn will ultimately decide in harmony with Turkey.
Stoltenberg expects movement in summer
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg assumes that Turkish President Erdogan will lift his blockade after the May elections and that Sweden will then be able to join NATO in the summer.
Secretary General Stoltenberg also countered the impression that Sweden is now alone. “Sweden is already integrated into NATO’s military and civilian structures,” said Stoltenberg. The Allies are ready to act and it is clear that NATO will react in case of threats or military attacks against Sweden.
A historic decision for Finland
With the admission of Finland, the strategic situation in Northern Europe changes. The common border between NATO and Russia will more than double – around 1,300 kilometers will be added. The decision is a historic step for Finland. After decades, the country is giving up its non-aligned status, and Russia’s attack on Ukraine has triggered a rethink among the Finns.
But NATO will also benefit from Finland’s accession, explained Stoltenberg. “Finland will bring significant military forces that are well trained and well equipped”. In addition, there is an unusually high number of reservists. Then followed a spike towards the countries that have not yet reached the two percent target, including Germany. “We must also remember,” Stoltenberg said, “that Finland is one of the few countries in Europe that did not cut defense spending after the end of the Cold War.”
NATO admission for Ukraine too?
Whether Ukraine can become a member of NATO and when that is even possible – this old controversial issue is to be reopened in Brussels today. A small minority of Eastern European countries support Ukraine’s admission. But the vast majority, including Germany and France, consider it impossible to take in a country that is in the middle of a war.
Instead, they want to discuss how the alliance can deepen its relationship with Ukraine, for example by moving closer to Western military standards and by helping to fight corruption.