Niiniste: Sweden’s security is fine if Finland joins NATO first

HELSINKI (AP) — Sweden will not find itself in a vulnerable security situation even if Finland joins NATO first, Finland’s president said Sunday, as the two Nordic candidate countries negotiate bilateral military pacts with the United States.

“It is possible that Finland will join NATO before Sweden,” Finnish President Sauli Niiniste said in an interview published on Sunday by Swedish public broadcaster SVT. “Should Turkey’s ratification proposal have been rejected? That sounds a little crazy. It would be a terribly difficult situation if we said no to Ankara.”

Niiniste referred to his visit to Ankara on Friday, where Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his government would ratify Finland’s bid to join NATO, paving the way for the country to join the military bloc, but would not ratify Sweden’s bid amid disputes between Ankara and Stockholm. resolved.

Both Finland and Sweden applied to join NATO 10 months ago after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, abandoning decades of non-alignment.

NATO needs unanimous approval from its 30 existing members to expand, with Turkey and Hungary the only countries yet to ratify the northern duo’s bid.

If Sweden’s NATO membership talks with Turkey drag on for a long time, many Swedish security policy experts agree that this will put Stockholm in a militarily vulnerable position in the Baltic Sea region.

Niinistö said Finland, Sweden and Denmark are currently holding separate talks with the United States on security issues in an attempt to reach a bilateral military pact similar to the one Norway previously struck with Washington.

“I think it’s a big change, almost bigger than NATO membership,” Niiniste said of the ongoing talks with the US, when asked what would happen to Sweden’s security if NATO accession talks drag on. “It means a lot when all of us (the Scandinavian countries) have a direct and fairly similar (military) agreement with the United States.”

After announcing their intention to join NATO in May 2022, Finland and Sweden promised to join the Western military alliance at the same time.

Niinistö told SVT that the northern neighbors are determined to join NATO “hand in hand while it is in our hands, but the ratification of Finland’s NATO membership is in the hands of Turkey and Hungary.”

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