President Sauli Niinistö talked with Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, on Saturday, 18 February 2023. (Odd Andersen – AFP / Lehtikuva)


FINLAND and Sweden may be moving hand in hand toward Nato, but Finland is prepared, if necessary, to let go and enter the alliance without its western neighbour, confirm statements made last weekend in conjunction with the Munich Security Conference, according to Helsingin Sanomat.

The Nordic countries submitted their bids to join the defence alliance in May 2022, a couple of months after Russia invaded Ukraine.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto (Greens) told YLE last weekend that Turkey has signalled that Finland has satisfied the conditions it had imposed for its support for the membership application but that further negotiations are necessary with Sweden. President Sauli Niinistö stated on Sveriges Radio, the national radio broadcaster of Sweden, that if Turkey ratifies Finland but not Sweden as a member of the alliance, Finland will not withdraw its application.

“You must understand our position. It’s very difficult,” he was quoted saying by Helsingin Sanomat.

Minister of Defence Mikko Savola (Centre) stated to the Associated Press that Finland will not wait for Sweden if its bid is ratified. “No, no. Then we will join,” he remarked on the sidelines of the security conference.

Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary general of Nato, has similarly left the door open for the possibility of separating the two membership applications while assuring that the alliance continues to work toward welcoming the two new members at the same time.

“But if only Finland is ratified, then Finland will come,” he said to the Swedish public television company, SVT, on Sunday.

“The main question is not whether Finland and Sweden are ratified together,” he was quoted saying to reporters last week by the New York Times. “The main question is that they are both ratified as full members as soon as possible.”

Helsingin Sanomat on Monday reminded that some uncertainty persists around the process, as neither of the two pending membership applications has been ratified by the two holdouts, Hungary and Turkey.

The Nato summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, in June has been identified as a critical junction for the process. President Niinistö suggested last week that if the applications have not been ratified by then, it is difficult to imagine why the process would move forward after the summit.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT