News | Feb. 1, 2011

Finland, Sweden, and NATO: From “Virtual” to Formal Allies?

By Leo G. Michel Strategic Forum 265


Finland, Sweden, and NATO: From "Virtual" to Formal Allies
Finland, Sweden, and NATO: From "Virtual" to Formal Allies
Strategic Forum 265
Photo By: NDU Press
VIRIN: 180314-D-BD104-014

Key Points

  • The United States has an overarching national security interest in European partners that broadly share U.S. values and are willing to help foster peace and security both regionally and globally. Since the early 1990s, Finland and Sweden have transformed their security policies and defense structures in ways that improve their ability to work closely with America. 
  • Finland and Sweden plan to maintain capable (albeit smaller) militaries, reflecting lingering doubts regarding Russia and rising concerns about other security challenges. Both favor close cooperation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), despite their official stance of “military non-alignment.” 
  • While Finland and Sweden have not asked to join NATO, the pros and cons of possible accession are discussed within their political and defense establishments. Finland is better positioned politically than Sweden to make a decision to seek NATO membership, although the Finnish government is unlikely to make such a move before 2012. The situation could then evolve quickly, depending on internal political alignments and factors such as NATO performance in Afghanistan and Russian attitudes regarding further Alliance enlargement.

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