Finland and Sweden are increasing their military cooperation dialogue with NATO covering development of a “special relationship” with the Western alliance. A framework for negotiations was agreed to during discussions at NATO’s recent summit in Wales.
The governments of non-aligned Sweden and Finland are seeking to build “special relationship” status with NATO against the backdrop of the conflict in the Ukraine and Russia’s ongoing defense investments in the High North and Baltic Sea areas.
The proposed relationship centers on a memorandum that details 50 to 60 so-called “Mutual Objectives.”
One of the most ambitious targets contained in the memorandum is the so-called “host nation” support mechanism, a protocol under which Finland and Sweden would allow, by invitation, NATO to deploy land, naval and air force assets on Swedish and Finnish soil.
Under this arrangement, Finland and Sweden would agree to provide Western alliance forces full logistical support, including barracks, transport and munitions.
Finnish President Sauli Niinistö rejected criticism from opposition political parties that the “special relationship” represents a first step to entering NATO by “the back door.”
“This does not mean Finland is entering NATO through the back door. While we will continue to rely on our own defense organization, it is in Finland’s own self-interest to become more networked. We want a broader partnership on defense that includes the Nordic countries, NATO and the European Union,” said Niinistö, who is also commander in chief of Finland’s armed forces.
Swedish Defense Minister Karin Enström described “special relationship” status as a natural progression under NATO’s Partnership for Peace program that Sweden and Finland joined in 1994.