Sweden Social Democrats divided on joining NATO
While Finland seems to be determined to join NATO, Sweden's ruling Social Democrats are divided on the decision.
By May 13, Sweden will publish a security policy assessment report that will involve representatives of all parties in the Swedish parliament - the Riksdag.
Before the government takes a decision on submitting an application to join the NATO, the Swedish foreign ministry is due to publish a position paper by May 24.
Swedish media cited Climate and Environment Minister, Annika Strandhäll, who also serves as a federal board chair of the women’s wing of the Social Democrats - as saying that the women's wing had “a long history and struggle in matters concerning peace, disarmament, detente and military freedom of alliance."
“[We] in the federal board have decided to remain in line with our congressional decisions that Sweden should be militarily non-aligned and stand outside NATO,” confirmed Strandhäll.
Two-thirds of Finnish ministers in favor of joining NATO
For his part, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said he will make his views on the NATO matter public by 12 May, after Russian President Vladimir Putin gives his speech on May 9, on the occasion of Russia’s Victory Day. Later this month, Niinistö is scheduled to make a two-day visit to Sweden.
It is noteworthy that Moscow has denied reports claiming that the Russian President will announce a war on Europe on May 9. However, it warned of unspecified consequences if Sweden and Finland join NATO.
In regard to Finland, which shares an 830-mile border with Russia, a survey of the parliament revealed that around two-thirds of Finnish ministers are in favor of joining NATO.
The ruling Finnish Social Democrats will hold a debate on the matter on 14 May.
Helsinki has taken steps to minimize dependency on Moscow
A joint Finland-Sweden application, to be submitted to NATO ahead of its Madrid summit on June 29, is supported by advocates of NATO membership. This would give NATO time to respond with an invitation to join.
Moreover, Finland seems determined to join the alliance even if Sweden decides to pull back.
As British soldiers took part in joint exercises with US, Estonian, and Finnish soldiers in Finland, UK Defense Minister Ben Wallace visited Helsinki on Wednesday.
The UK minister discussed with the Finnish military ways the UK and NATO can support Finland in the transition period between application and acceptance of full protection under NATO’s article 5.
Nevertheless, NATO forces are not expected to be stationed permanently in Finland in the transition period, while joint exercises might intensify.
It is noteworthy that Helsinki has taken steps to minimize its dependency on Moscow's energy by next winter.