Sweden and Finland, currently engaged in bilateral defense cooperation talks, have no plans to jointly attempt to join NATO.
The defense ministries of both countries have ruled out a common approach to NATO membership that would see the two Nordic, militarily non-aligned states coordinating any future application to join the Western alliance in a “single leap.”
The possibility that Sweden and Finland could adopt a united front on NATO membership was briefly raised at the Nordic Council’s summit in Stockholm on Oct. 28. The Nordic Council is the chief regional cooperation vehicle for intra-Nordic political and economic cooperation.
“There is no plan, or proposal, for both our countries to cooperate together to join NATO. Should a NATO assessment or any other defense appraisal be carried out, the premise must be that it will be conducted by the government and state of Finland. Foreign and security policy must be considered purely on national interests,” said Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb.
Acknowledging the destabilizing role Russia is playing in Ukraine while also raising tensions in the High North and Baltic Sea regions, Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist said that Finland and Sweden would push ahead with defense cooperation plans.
A preliminary report outlining concrete areas for future cooperation is expected by year’s end.
“We will look for common ground in practical cooperation, including sharing tasks, broader combined exercises, common procurements and cost-saving measures that enhance our individual defense capability. A common approach to NATO is not being examined,” Hultqvist said.
In the case of Finland, Stubb said the issue of NATO membership would be left to “the next administration.” Finland will hold parliamentary elections in April 2015. The prime minister called Finn membership in NATO a “long-term possibility.”
A new report on international security and cooperation, commissioned by Sweden’s Ministry of Defense, says the government must determine whether NATO membership should form part of its long-term defense policy and planning.