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Sweden and Finland to further strengthen security cooperation

Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin meets Sweden's Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson in Helsinki
Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin and her Swedish counterpart Magdalena Andersson address the media outside the Prime Minister’s official residence, Kesaranta, in Helsinki, Finland, March 5, 2022. Roni Rekomaa/Lehtikuva/via REUTERS

March 5, 2022

By Anne Kauranen and Johan Ahlander

HELSINKI (Reuters) – Sweden and Finland will further step up their security cooperation in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the two countries’ prime ministers said on Saturday, but they were not obligated to join NATO.

“Russia’s war against a sovereign European nation endangers the European security order. In this changing security environment, Finland and Sweden will continue to strengthen our cooperation,” Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin told reporters in Helsinki at a joint press conference with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson.

Sweden and Finland have strong historical ties and close military cooperation, including joint exercises and information sharing.

The invasion, dubbed a “military special operation” by Russia, has also forced a rapid shift in attitudes toward NATO in both countries currently outside the NATO alliance.

Polls in the last few days have shown that for the first time ever, a majority in both countries is in favor of joining NATO. Marin said it is “understandable” that more people in both Sweden and Finland now want to join NATO. [L2N2V712H]

“We are now having this discussion in Finland,” said Marin. “We will have these discussions in Parliament, with the President, in the government and between the parties.”

In Sweden, the ruling Social Democrats have long resisted calls from the centre-right opposition to join NATO. Andersson said it was natural for the discussion to resurface but avoided questions about Sweden joining the military alliance.

“The security situation has changed dramatically,” Andersson said. “I have met with the party leaders of the other Swedish parties several times in the last week and we are discussing a number of issues,” she said.

The two countries are already working closely with NATO and are invited to all consultations on the Ukraine crisis. Secretary-General Stoltenberg said in January they could join the alliance “very quickly” if they decided to apply for membership.

Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto on Friday said the United States and the Nordic countries would “embark on a clear process to intensify defense and security cooperation” after a meeting with US President Biden that included a call to Magdalena Andersson.

(Reporting by Anne Kauranen in Helsinki and Johan Ahlander in Stockholm; Editing by Catherine Evans and Christina Fincher)

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Bobby Allyn

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