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DOD Official Touts Sweden, Finland Joining NATO

A Department of Defense official strongly urged the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to quickly approve the request of Finland and Sweden to join NATO. 

Aircraft fly in a V formation over a naval ship.
Flying in Formation
Aircraft from Germany, Finland, Sweden and the United States fly in formation above the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge during BALTOPS 22 in the Baltic Sea, Jun. 6, 2022. The exercise, led by U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa and executed by Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO, trains forces to strengthen combined response capabilities critical to preserving freedom of navigation and security in the Baltic Sea.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Jesse Schwab
VIRIN: 220606-N-TP544-1030

"The Department of Defense assesses that Finland and Sweden are ready for NATO membership," Celeste A. Wallander, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, said at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing today. 

Finland and Sweden would provide additional security and stability in Europe, Wallander said. The two Baltic nations already have close bilateral defense relationships with the United States, she said. The two nations also have close working relationships and military interoperability with NATO militaries. 

The fact that Sweden and Finland petitioned to join the defensive alliance is a sign of how much the security environment has changed with Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. Both nations have been partners with NATO for decades, but really saw no need to join the treaty organization.  

But Putin's invasion of Ukraine caused a seismic shift in public opinion in both countries, and the legislatures of both countries quickly debated and ratified a motion to join the 30-nation alliance. 

A solider takes a knee to survey surroundings in the woods.
220504-A-AM449-226
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Devon Penrod of the 4th Squadron, 2d Cavalry Regiment takes a knee to survey his surroundings during a combat exercise in Niinisalo Training Area, Finland, on May 4, 2022. Exercise Arrow is an annual, pre-planned, multinational exercise taking place in Finland, where visiting forces including the U.S., U.K., Latvia, and Estonia, train together with the Finnish Defense Forces in high-intensity, force-on-force engagements and a live fire exercise to increase military readiness and develop interoperability among participating partner nations.
Photo By: U.S. Army photo by Spc. Elizabeth MacPherson
VIRIN: 220504-A-AM449-226

Both Finland and Sweden are ready to contribute to alliance defense now, Wallander said. Finland maintains general conscription and has a well-manned and trained reserve that can be called up quickly, which is imperative since Finland shares a long border with Russia. 

"Finland's location on the Baltic Sea, diplomatic experience with Russia and advanced capabilities make it an asset to the alliance," she said. "Finland spends more than 2 percent of its [gross domestic product] on defense, and possesses unique military capabilities and expertise, particularly operating in the arctic environment." 

Sweden's accession into NATO would bring "a first rate and rapidly growing military with a principled foreign policy that ardently defends democracy and human rights," Wallander said.  

Sweden also maintains a world class defense industry. Sweden's "military expertise in the Arctic and undersea environments would substantially advance alliance capabilities," she said.  

Two applications sit on a table.
NATO Applications
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg receives official letters of application to join NATO from Klaus Korhonen, ambassador of Finland accredited to NATO, and Axel Wernhoff, ambassador of Sweden accredited to NATO, in Brussels, May 18, 2022.
Photo By: NATO
VIRIN: 220518-O-D0439-102R

Sweden already has interoperability with NATO forces. The kingdom became a NATO Partnership for Peace member in 1994, and a NATO enhanced opportunities partner in 2014.  

"Sweden has contributed to or supported NATO missions in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iraq, Kosovo and Libya," she said.  

Finally, Wallander said both nations "are thriving democracies that share our values and fit the ideals of the North Atlantic Treaty." 

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