Sweden, Finland remain undecided on membership as troops train with NATO

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April 30 (UPI) — The foreign ministers for Sweden and Finland said their nations remain undecided on membership as their troops conducted training with NATO.

Foreign ministers Pekka Haavisto of Finland and Ann Linde of Sweden said during a press conference Friday that the countries would be making the decision whether to join or not “in the same direction and in the same time frame.”

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“We already have ongoing cooperation. Of course, if our security environment becomes more challenging of course we can add bilateral planning, and it includes all sectors on military cooperation,” Haavisto said.

Haavisto said that Sweden is Finland’s “most important bilateral partner” while Linde said that “what Finland decides will very much affect what Sweden is going to decide” while each country respect the other’s independence.

Linde said that Sweden’s parliament is in the process of preparing an analysis report on NATO membership that is expected to be delivered on May 13. Haavisto added that the process to join NATO would take between four months to a year as 30 member states of the alliance ratify the agreement.

Finland and Sweden already have NATO partnership agreements that began in 1994 but which offer no security guarantees. The countries are examining whether to end their official neutrality and fully join NATO despite threats from Moscow that doing so would lead to an aggressive response from Russia.

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This week, Finnish troops joined NATO forces in training exercises for mine countermeasures in the Archipelago Sea, according to a press release.

On Friday, Swedish troops started submarine training exercises with NATO forces in the Baltic Sea. It was comprised of training in anti-submarine warfare, which included fixed-wing aircraft and helicopter operations and defensive procedures while entering and leaving port.

“Since Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine, NATO has further reinforced its deterrence and defense, on land, in the air, and at sea,” the press release reads.

“Finland and Sweden are NATO’s closest partners with years of experience training and operating alongside NATO allies.”