Updated Jul 12, 2023, 4:42pm EDT

How Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership could cause trouble for Russia

Sailors stand in front of the Swedish submarine HMS Gotland, as it lies in a port at the naval base of Karlskrona, Sweden.
REUTERS/Tom Little

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Sweden edged closer to joining NATO this week after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed to advance the country’s bid to enroll in the alliance.

Finland applied to join the bloc after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and officially became a member in April.

As two countries with a strategic presence in both the Baltic Sea and the Arctic Ocean, experts believe that Sweden and Finland’s contribution to NATO’s defense against Russia will be immense. We’ve curated some of their insights here.

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  • Sweden is a big country, with a huge navy and a lot of strategic territory, along with a border on the Baltic Sea which is crucial to protect the Baltic countries. Which is why “Sweden is a big deal for NATO,” Ben Rhodes, a former deputy national security advisor said on ‘Pod Save The World.’ Sweden’s navy is the fifth largest in the world, while Finland’s is the 11th biggest.
  • Both Sweden and Finland’s NATO memberships would be geographically beneficial especially as Finland could provide the bloc with “enhanced deterrence” given its shared border with Moscow, said Carisa Nietsche with the Transatlantic Security Program at the Center for a New American Security. “On the other hand, NATO also must protect this border against a Russian attack,” she said. — The Washington Post
  • Sweden’s eventual accession to NATO would strengthen the military stability of North Central Europe and transform the Baltic Sea into a “NATO lake,” said Ian Brzezinski, a senior fellow at The Atlantic Council. Its membership will reinforce the bloc’s “transatlantic outlook” and above all, bring NATO a member with impressive military capabilities.
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At the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, Erdogan hinted that Sweden’s accession to NATO membership may not happen as quickly as its members hope given that it is yet to win support from Turkey’s parliament, where the matter could be taken up as late as October.

Hungary is the only NATO member left to approve Sweden’s bid, but the country has previously said that it would take a cue from Turkey.