SALZBURG, Austria — Finland and Sweden must now join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), while Russia’s Putin targets Ukraine, the former alliance leader told CNBC.
The two Scandinavian countries have considered joining NATO in the wake of the unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine. Joining NATO would mean a sharp turnaround in their policies towards the Kremlin after years of taking a neutral stance. Finland and Sweden will announce their plans in the coming days.
“As far as Finland and Sweden are concerned, I think there is an opportunity for… [the] two countries to join, right now because Putin is worried about something else. He can’t help it,” Anders Rasmussen, former NATO secretary general, told CNBC on Saturday.
Russia has repeatedly stated that it is against NATO expansion and has cited this as one of the reasons for the invasion of Ukraine.
In addition, the Kremlin has also said that if Stockholm and Helsinki join the alliance, it “should rebalance the situation”.
It is unclear how the Kremlin would react if both countries continued with their membership.
However, their accession would double the current NATO-Russia border and add significantly more military power to the alliance.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has previously said both countries would be most welcome.
But it could take “several months” for their memberships to become official, Rasmussen told CNBC.
“Even if it is considered an urgent procedure, and it is, it will take several months because you have to go through 30 parliaments before it can be ratified across NATO,” he said.
NATO currently has 30 members, including the United States.
“It will take several months and during that period both Finland and Sweden could potentially be exposed to Russian intimidation or even threats, which is why we must guarantee their safety,” Rasmussen said, “as if they were already members of NATO.”
These security guarantees would have to come from individual NATO members, as the alliance’s famous Article 5 – which states that an attack on one NATO member is an attack on all – would only apply to Finland and Sweden once their applications are accepted by all NATO members. 30 have been ratified. NATO members.
Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has led to a shift in defense policy in Europe. Countries have announced spending much more on their military capabilities, sending weapons to Ukraine and – in the case of Finland and Sweden – this has led to increased public support for NATO accession.
“You also need to understand Swedish and Finnish [potential] decisions was a message that there are no neutral countries on Russia’s border. And this is a new reality, even during the Cold War it wasn’t like that,” Ivan Krastev, a political analyst, told CNBC on Friday.
“Before [Russia’s invasion of Ukraine] it was not clear what the difference is between being a member of NATO and just being friends with the United States. Now it’s pretty clear that being a member of NATO means Article Five, and just friends of the United States isn’t. And this is why Finland and Sweden should go from friends to members,” he added.