March 25, 2023

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Finland could host NATO nuclear weapons less than 1,000 kilometers from Moscow

There is speculation, however, that Finland would not agree to host nuclear weapons or permanent troops on its soil and may seek assurances that this would not be the case.
Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said earlier this year that NATO is not interested in nuclear bases or deployments, reports

But at the inaugural Security Forum held recently, President Niinisto said: “Finland wants to become a NATO member, period. Nothing more, nothing less. We have no special requests or reservations to set as preconditions for our membership“.

That declaration, in theory, opens Finland up to host NATO nuclear weapons, with the country’s southern border less than 600 miles from Moscow.

“NATO lake” and the new front line of the alliance with Moscow

Finland and Sweden are set to become NATO’s 31st and 32nd members, pending approval by the Hungarian and Turkish parliaments, which officials say will take place in the coming months.

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The joint decision to join the transatlantic alliance ends decades of military neutrality in Helsinki and Stockholm; a historic strategic setback for President Vladimir Putin stemming from the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

The imminent double accession will transform the geostrategic situation in northern Europe. The Baltic Sea will become what some observers have called a “NATO lake,” while the 1,303-kilometer border between Finland and Russia will become NATO’s new front line with Moscow.

The problem of joining is almost solved. Whether the two states will host nuclear weapons is not, although all parties involved suggest this is unlikely.

Currently, the deterrent force is located in NATO’s three nuclear nations – the US, Britain and France – and in bases in the non-nuclear states of Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey. No country that has joined the alliance since the collapse of the Soviet Union hosts nuclear weapons.

Russia has several nuclear facilities near Finland’s borders. These include intercontinental ballistic missiles based at Vipolzovo, about 482 kilometers from the border, and several nuclear-capable submarine bases less than 241 kilometers from the border in the Barents Sea.

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin declared in May that the alliance had shown no desire to place such weapons on Finnish soil. “No one is going to come to us to impose nuclear weapons or permanent bases on us if we don’t want them. It doesn’t seem to me that there is even an interest in deploying nuclear weapons or opening NATO bases in Finland“, said Sanna Marin in Rome.

It is more of a theoretical discussion. As far as I know, none of the so-called ‘new’ NATO member states have actually been offered nuclear weapons“, said Kai Sauer, Undersecretary of State for Foreign and Security Policy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland.

Sauer added: “It figured in our internal debate. And I think, through yesterday’s speech, the president made it quite clear that ‘no reservations’ is a good guideline in a situation where the security environment is quite unstable. Why should we limit any of our options? I’m not saying we’re too excited to get nuclear weapons. But it is a political decision in the end, and we are not at the stage where we are members. So that remains to be seen“.

Finland invests in defense ‘for new types of threats’

Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told Newsweek that Helsinki’s priorities concern its conventional forces, which will immediately become among the largest and best-equipped in the alliance after joining.

We have a very strong national army. We are a very security-oriented people: we are the last, I think, to build air-raid shelters in Europe, and we are almost the last to have conscription and conscription“, stated Haavisto.

The Finnish foreign minister mentioned Finland’s recent $10 billion deal to buy 64 Lockheed F-35 fighter jets from the US, adding: “We agreed to this deal: We invested in defense, in our military … we must be prepared for new types of threats”.

Haavisto suggested that Finland, like other recent new members, was unlikely to be asked to host the alliance’s nuclear arsenal. “When you look at countries that have nuclear weapons, they have very restrictive policies on how to manage them. We haven’t seen NATO put nuclear weapons anywhere near external borders,” he said.

Nuclear weapons or not, Finland and Sweden will both be admitted to NATO’s Nuclear Planning Group once they become members.

The body “dexamines specific policy issues associated with nuclear forces and broader issues such as nuclear arms control and nuclear proliferation” and includes all member nations except France, which decided not to participate in order to preserve its full nuclear weapons independence.
The accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO will redefine the security environment in northern Europe, regardless of whether they host nuclear weapons or not. Russia has fiercely opposed NATO’s impending expansion, warning in April that it could deploy nuclear and hypersonic weapons in its European exclave of Kaliningrad in retaliation.

Sauer told Newsweek that the nuclear debate – which hovered over the situation in Ukraine – was only revived by Russia.

“Who would have thought that we would come back to this debate, which was wrapped up and wrapped up and put on the shelf decades ago? Who brought us back to this debate? I think the answer is pretty clear,” he said.

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