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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Finland’s NATO bid is a shift in its strategy

Finland filed its bid for NATO membership in May.

By Carly Olson

By seeking to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Finland is shifting a decades-long geopolitical strategy known as Finlandization.

During the Cold War, the country maintained its independence by staying in the shadow of the Soviet Union, remaining neutral and shaping its foreign policy to accommodate the larger power’s interests. Russia’s invasion in Ukraine has pushed Finland, a small Nordic nation on Russia’s western border, to change tack.

It filed its bid for membership in May, along with its neighbor Sweden, a few months after the invasion.

Here is what to know about Finland’s and Sweden’s bids to join NATO, a 30-nation alliance.

Security concerns pushed Sweden and Finland to seek membership

Finland and Sweden jointly submitted their applications in May, after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. If accepted, they would have protection under the alliance’s mutual defense agreement.

Finland and Sweden have not been in any alliance before

While they held strategic partnerships, they abandoned decades of nonalignment to apply to join NATO.

Turkey’s president has objected to Sweden’s bid

Although both Sweden and Finland have strong backing from most member states, the alliance requires unanimous consent to approve new members. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has indicated he is willing to ratify Finland’s membership (after much negotiation) but has demanded that Sweden crack down on Kurdish refugee groups — whose members he considers to be terrorists — and extradite a number of Kurds living in Sweden, some of whom are political refugees. He is holding out even though Sweden has promised to take a harder line.

Finland might join NATO without Sweden

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary-general has raised the possibility that the countries’ applications might be considered separately. In March, Finland’s Parliament passed all of the legislation it needs to join the alliance once it is approved by member states.

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