The US Expects Finland and Sweden To Join NATO at the Same Time

Without Sweden, the U.S. will not give the green light for Finns to try to get Turkey to ratify their NATO membership.

The United States, the most important NATO member, expects Finland and Sweden to join at the same time, foreign and security policy sources tell Iltalehti.

In practice, this makes it impossible for the Finnish government — at least for the time being — to separate Finland’s NATO bid from Sweden’s.

President Joe Biden’s administration has stressed this since last spring, and Washington’s position has not shifted.

The Americans hope that the Finns will not push for Finland’s NATO ratification alone.

In other words, the United States wants both Turkey and Hungary to ratify both applicants’ NATO memberships at the same time.

In 2022, the United States chose as its strategic message that its diplomats would always speak publicly about “Swedish and Finnish membership of NATO.”

The Rhetoric Is Revealing

Under no circumstances should the two Nordic countries be separated on the NATO issue.

“There is strong bipartisan support for both Sweden and Finland to join the alliance,”* U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO Julianne Smith stressed to Iltalehti in the spring of 2022.

At various points in the Iltalehti interview at NATO headquarters, Smith spoke about Sweden and Finland.

“President Joe Biden has said: ‘We will defend every inch of NATO territory,’ and there is no doubt that his statement would also apply to these two countries if they become members of the alliance,”* Smith said, emphasizing the U.S. commitment to defend both countries.

Foreign and security policy sources tell Iltalehti that the United States’ position is unchanged: the Western power does not wish to divide Finland and Sweden’s paths to NATO.

Blinken’s Position

Iltalehti asked Minister for Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto (Greens) on Tuesday [Jan. 24] in Parliament whether the United States insists that Finland and Sweden become full members of NATO at the same time.

Haavisto’s public response supports what Iltalehti’s sources report based on background discussions.

“I met with Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in December. We had both bilateral discussions and a kind of three-country discussion. Our discussion made it very clear that the United States’ priority is for the countries to become members of NATO at the same time,” said Haavisto.

The Finnish Foreign Minister also believes that the United States wields influence over whether Turkey ratifies NATO membership or not.

Haavisto has called for attention to what is happening in relations between the U.S. and Turkey.

A Link to the F-16 Deal

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu visited Washington last week.

“And then there’s this possible arms package to Turkey prepared by the U.S. — F-16 fighters, upgrades to old jets and other material. I see it as something that could contribute to boosting Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO ambitions,” Haavisto stressed.

Haavisto explains the argument used by the Americans by saying, “The U.S. argument is that they would both strengthen NATO: Turkey would be able to rearm, and Finland and Sweden would join.”

Erdoğan Not Giving Up

Foreign and security policy sources tell us that there is more to it than that.

It will be easier for the Americans to fulfill their defense obligations toward both countries and the Baltic states when there is a common NATO defense plan for the Baltic Sea.

The Biden administration also does not want Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s divide-and-rule policy to erode NATO’s internal cohesion and damage the authority of the treaty. Under this authority, all European countries that meet NATO’s membership criteria are welcome to join.

Finland needs full NATO membership to get the security guarantees it needs from the United States.

On Friday, March 3, 2022, Biden told President Niinistö at the White House that security guarantees are only possible with congressional approval and that for European countries, the United States offers NATO membership to obtain them.

Congress has ratified Finland’s NATO membership, but Finland has not yet become a full member of the alliance. This means that a contractual security guarantee does not yet exist between the U.S. and Finland.

*Editor’s note: Although accurately translated, this quoted passage could not be independently verified.

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