Finland’s Parliament on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed all the legislation necessary for joining NATO, subject only to the ratification of its bid by the Parliaments of Turkey and Hungary.
Finland and Sweden had pledged to enter the alliance “hand in hand,” but Sweden’s application has been held up by Turkey. So if Turkey and Hungary soon approve the Finns’ application, as is expected, Finland will join NATO even without its Nordic partner.
In Finland’s 200-member Parliament, 184 voted in favor, seven voted against, and one abstained. Political leaders took up the vote before elections scheduled in April for a new Parliament, in order to avoid any delay.
Finland pushed Sweden to apply to join NATO after Russia invaded Ukraine a year ago. Both countries are members of the European Union, but judged that their traditional policies of military nonalignment were untenable after Russia’s unprovoked attack.
Turkey has indicated that it may split the applications, having little difficulty with Finland but arguing that Sweden needs to do more to satisfy Ankara’s demands for a tougher stance against terrorism and Kurdish separatists. Turkey also wants some Kurds extradited from Sweden to face terrorism-related charges. [Continue reading…]
The possibility of Finland proceeding without Sweden, if the Swedish process were to be fully stopped, should be viewed as a last resort. Nonetheless, it is worth exploring the potential strategic and logistical implications of decoupling and the suboptimal outcomes created by such a move—including for Turkey, which could come away with no concessions if Sweden ends up a NATO member in all but name.
For Sweden, NATO membership has always been connected to the so-called “Finnish question,” i.e., not leaving Finland, with its long border with Russia, alone as the only military non-aligned state in the region. Now, the tables have turned and Finland may be faced with its own “Swedish question.”
After an active start to the joint accession process, a sense of disillusionment has started to creep in. Sweden’s Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson hinted in early January that Sweden had reached a dead end with Turkey, as Sweden was neither able nor willing to offer anything more. Sweden is in the process of revising its anti-terrorism legislation again; the current laws only entered into force last July. But the crux of the matter is Turkey’s demand for extraditions of alleged terrorists. Decisions on extradition cannot be made on political grounds in either Finland or Sweden and the process must, like in all other cases, go through the judicial system.
With the impasse likely to continue at least through Turkey’s elections in May, different options are increasingly being floated in Finland, should Turkey refuse to ratify both applications by the NATO Summit in Vilnius, Lithuania in July.
The most conceivable scenario in which Finland would go ahead without Sweden would be if Turkey and Hungary decide to ratify only Finland. Theoretically, Finland could wait for Sweden’s accession to be approved by Turkey and Hungary before taking the necessary last step of signing off on the North Atlantic Treaty. However, given the high support for NATO membership and public opinion in favor of not waiting for Sweden, it would be difficult for the Finnish government not to proceed alone. [Continue reading…]