HELSINKI – The Nordic governments have pledged to deepen regional defense co-operation amid very high expectations that non-aligned Sweden and Finland will announce their decisions to join NATO immediately on 16 May.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin issued a joint statement Thursday in support of NATO membership. “Now that the moment of decision is near, we state our shared views. “We believe that NATO membership will strengthen Finland’s security,” the leaders said in a statement.

“As a member of NATO, Finland will strengthen the entire defense alliance. Finland must immediately apply for NATO membership. We hope that the steps at national level that are still needed to make this decision possible will be taken quickly in the coming days, “the joint statement continued.

The joint statement by Finnish leaders, backed by leaders of Finland’s main parties in Eduskunta, the country’s national parliament, can be expected to influence Sweden’s decision-making process on NATO membership, said Ann Linde, Sweden’s foreign minister. foreign affairs.

“The Prime Minister and the President of Finland have sent a clear message. We had close cooperation during the process at every level with Finland. “I am clear about the position that Sweden will take, although I cannot reveal that position at the moment,” Linde said.

The decision-making process for Sweden and Finland has gained momentum in recent days, with growing support from major NATO nations such as the United States, France, Germany and Britain, urging the two Nordic countries to join the alliance.

This support was evident on May 11, when British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited Stockholm and Helsinki to sign bilateral Joint Declarations of Security (JSDs) with Sweden and Finland.

JSDs are considered important, albeit somewhat symbolic, by Sweden and Finland, as they constitute political declarations and are not legally binding commitments under international law. None of the pacts requires parliamentary approval.

Johnson’s presence in the two Nordic countries came at the same time as a joint statement by the Nordic defense ministers, including NATO members Denmark and Norway. The Scandinavian defense ministers have promised new and concrete measures to boost Nordic co-operation in defense, military readiness and more frequent joint exercises.

“Our ability to cooperate in peacetime is at the heart of our ability to act in times of crisis and conflict. “We are in the process of deepening our operational cooperation, which will allow us to improve our interoperability, deterrence and territorial defense,” the statement said.

The British JSD with Sweden and Finland says future cooperation with the two countries, in the event of a potential future crisis, will include a wide range of aid, which “may include military means”.

However, the document makes it clear that the bilateral declaration is “intended to complement, not replace, existing European and Euro-Atlantic cooperation” with Finland and Sweden.

The decision-making process in Finland on NATO membership is informed by 10 separate parliamentary committees. These committees are ready to present their views on NATO membership to the government’s foreign affairs committee by 15 May.

The Finnish National Defense Committee has already spoken out in support of NATO membership, describing the move as “offering the best solution for Finland’s long-term security, security protected by Article 5”.

This view of regional security is shared by Peter Hultkvist, Sweden’s defense minister, who believes that joining all Scandinavian countries in NATO would improve the joint military capabilities of the Scandinavian countries and better serve peace and stability in neighboring regions. North and Baltic Seas.

“Being a member of NATO, Sweden and Finland would benefit from joint defense planning within NATO. Membership would offer a completely different strategic depth. We could take advantage of each other’s strengths and strengths and complement each other fully while conducting operational planning that would make us stronger. These are some of the benefits of NATO membership if we decide to join, “Hultqvist said.

Gerard O’Dwyer reports on the Scandinavian case for Defense News.

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