Finnish parliament debate: ‘Important to decide on Nato alongside Sweden’

Finland's foreign minister opened a debate in the Finnish parliament on Wednesday by stressing the importance of Sweden and Finland taking the decision over whether to join the Nato security alliance together.

Finnish parliament debate: 'Important to decide on Nato alongside Sweden'
Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said in Finland's parliament that Finland and Sweden should join Nato together. Photo: Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva / AFP

Pekka Haavisto, whose Green League party has yet to take a position on joining, launched the debate by presenting the results of the Finnish government’s report on changes to the security climate, published last Wednesday. 

“I see it as important that Finland and Sweden take their decisions at around the same time and in the same direction,” he said.  

“Simultaneous processes would also make it easier to act in the case of reactions from Russia. But in all actions, the countries take their decision independently.”   

Charly Salonius-Pasternak, a senior research fellow at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, said in a Twitter thread on the debate that this should be read as saying, “Finland is joining, Sweden has time to catch up”. 

The report, as summarised by Haavisto, boils down to three main points, that Russia has shown itself increasingly willing to take high-risk military actions, that it has shown itself willing to deploy hundreds of thousands of troops against a neighbour, and that it is increasingly talking of using nuclear weapons, against which Finland has no deterrence. 

“In a situation where Russia is trying to build a sphere of interest and is ready to use military force, that could lead to Finland’s freedom of manoeuvre being curtailed if we do not react,” he said. 

The debate saw some 120 of the Finnish parliament’s MPs make statements, with all the parties laying out their positions. 

Even representatives of those parties which have historically been most strongly opposed to Nato membership, such as the Left Alliance, expressed an openness to joining if that was the decision of the parliament as a whole. 

Jussi Saramo, from the Left Alliance, criticised the government report for not describing the downsides and dangers of Nato membership sufficiently, and said it was therefore up to MPs to fill in the gaps. 

 “When, for example, the disadvantages of joining the alliance have not been given any prominence, and it is therefore impossible to draw any conclusions, this important work for security and democracy has been left to the parliament,” he said. 

But even he admitted that neither staying out of Nato nor joining the alliance were “problem-free or risk-free”. Saramo agreed with Haavisto that it would be risky for Finland to join Nato if Sweden remained outside the alliance. 

READ ALSO: The likely timetable for how Sweden could join Nato

Antti Häkkänen, group leader for the Social Democrats, however, stressed that Finland should still feel able to join if Sweden decided not to, summing up Finland’s message to Sweden as:  “You’re welcome to join us, but we’re will also go in without you if it’s necessary,” 

While the Social Democrats have yet to formally take a position in favour of joining, Häkkänen said Russia’s actions had “brought Finland several steps closer to the necessity of a military alliance”. 

Several MPs rejected the Nato alternative reportedly promoted by Sweden’s defence minister Peter Hultqvist since Russia’s invasion, which would see Sweden and Finland forming a military alliance with the United States. 

“The sort of alliance between Sweden and Finland which has emerged in the debate is not a comparable alternative,” said Ville Tavio, from the populist Finns party. 

He called for the application to be made before the Nato summit held in Madrid at the end of June. 

After the debate, the parliament’s foreign policy committee will write a report, after which Finland’s government, in combination with the president, could submit a statement proposing that Finland applies to join Nato.

Salonius-Pasternak concluded his thread by remarking on how far Finland’s Nato debate has moved in such a short time. 

“When those parties/individuals who’ve most opposed Finnish NATO membership are on the fence, but open to supporting it after extensive debate, then I think the direction of the wind and journey is clear,” he said. “It truly is improving Finland’s security that *everyone* is focused on.” 

“One thing is clear: the wall of political unity and consensus being constructed – speech by speech – in the Finnish parliament is stronger than anything Russia could throw at it. The atmosphere is respectful (of differing views) and solemn, the purpose palpable.” 

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Sweden’s Green Party demands nuclear weapons ban

Sweden’s Green Party has called on the parliament to bring in a law outlawing nuclear weapons from Sweden’s territory in both peace and wartime. 

Sweden’s Green Party demands nuclear weapons ban

“We need to keep working towards nuclear disarmament,” the party’s joint leader, Märta Stenevi, said. 

The ban would cover all use of nuclear weapons on Swedish territory, even on visiting ships and when allies use Swedish waters or airspace. 

“We want the parliament to state its position on this demand,” Stenevi said. 

It is not enough, she said to state, as Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said she would, that Sweden does not want nuclear weapons or Nato bases on its territory, a similar situation as Denmark and Norway have had

“When you look at Denmark and Norway, those exceptions are verbal agreements,” Stenevi said.  

If Nato were to require member states to accept nuclear weapons at a later date, national law would be required for Sweden to be able to opt out, Stenevi said.

“That legislation would trump Nato’s statutes”.

Stenevi highlighted the fact that similar legislation already exists in Finland and has done for some time.

The Greens also want Sweden to remain outside Nato’s special committee for nuclear weapons.

“We think Sweden should continue to work towards nuclear disarmament,” she said. “To then sit and take part in a group pointing nuclear weapons towards specific targets is closer to legitimising their use”.

The Green Party also want Sweden to promote the “no first use” principle within Nato, which would mean that nuclear weapons can never be used unless a nuclear power had already been attacked with nuclear weapons first.

Finally, they write in their motion that they want Sweden to promote the respect for democratic values within Nato, as well as the introduction of a “democracy requirement” within the alliance.

“You just need to look at the last 24 hours to see clear evidence of Turkey making requirements and expecting Sweden to adapt their foreign policy to what fits the Turkish regime and not what Sweden decide is independently correct and right.” Stenevi said.