Old friends, new NATO allies: Foreign Minister Baerbock travels to Finland and Sweden
Foreign Minister Baerbock with her finnish counterpart Pekka Haavisto in Helsinki, © Thomas Koehler/photothek.de
They have long been members of the EU, and with their planned accession to NATO the two countries now also want to move closer to us in the area of security policy.
On 13 and 14 February, Foreign Minister Baerbock is travelling to Finland and Sweden. It is no secret that Germany, Finland and Sweden enjoy close political and cultural ties. The two Nordic countries are regarded as pioneers in the area of social and education policy, environment and climate policy and in the field of human rights and civil liberties. In the EU and the UN, the two countries often vote with Germany, and vice versa. Yet in one area, Finland and Sweden until now valued their independence: in the area of security and defence policy.
The far north is also at a watershed
Sweden has had a policy of non-participation in military alliances for almost 200 years, Finland has been neutral for almost 80 years. Yet here, too, Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine has sparked a different way of thinking. The vast majority of people in the two countries and their respective political leaders now see the futures of Finland and Sweden in NATO. They therefore applied to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in May 2022. The reason for this is clear: Russia is a neighbour of both countries. Finland shares a 1343-kilometre border with Russia. Sweden, too, is concerned about its strategically important Baltic Sea island of Gotland, near which Russian fighter aircraft recently violated Swedish airspace and the Russian navy has increased its presence.
Germany fully endorses NATO membership for both countries. Not only would it provide Finland and Sweden with more protection, but it would also strengthen the Alliance. For both countries have large, well-equipped and well-trained armed forces. With their accession, all the Nordic countries would be united under the umbrella of NATO for the first time. Alongside their mutual support for Ukraine, this issue will be a central focus of the political talks that Foreign Minister Baerbock will hold in Helsinki and Stockholm.
A comprehensive security concept – how we can learn from our Scandinavian partners
Security also plays an important role outside the military sphere in both Finland and Sweden. Both countries follow a comprehensive security approach which includes areas such as civil defence, resilience of critical infrastructure and keeping trade routes open. Examples include the Merihaka civil defence shelter in Helsinki and the ice-breaker „Polaris“, which Foreign Minister Baerbock will visit during her trip. In Sweden, this concept is known as „totalförsvaret“ and in Finland „kokonaismaanpuolustus“ – „total defence“.
It makes sense to see domestic and external security as being interconnected. That is why a comprehensive definition of security is also to be anchored in the new Federal Government National Security Strategy, which is currently being drafted under the lead responsibility of the Federal Foreign Office.
Whether as part of the EU, the OSCE or the Council of the Baltic Sea States, multilateralism is in Finland’s and Sweden’s DNA
Like Germany, Finland and Sweden have a long tradition of participation in international formats and organisations. Sweden currently holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, and Finland will take over the Presidency of the Council of the Baltic Sea States from Germany in July. In 2025, Finland is due to assume the Chair of the OSCE. The talks between Foreign Minister Baerbock and her counterparts will therefore also include discussion on how to strengthen these three organisations through reforms. The focus will be on the introduction of qualified majority decision-making in the EU’s common foreign and security policy, ways to circumvent Russia’s obstruction attempts in important OSCE bodies and the recalibration of the Council of the Baltic Sea States following Russia’s departure in 2022.