Russia’s attack on Ukraine was a “turning point” for security relations in Europe, the German chancellor said
Germany will support the admission of Finland and Sweden into the NATO military alliance, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said, after the two Nordic states expressed interest in joining up despite decades of neutrality.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday following two days of closed-door meetings with his Finnish and Swedish counterparts in a town near Berlin, Scholz vowed to back both nations’ bid to join the Western military bloc should they submit membership applications.
“For us it is clear: If these two countries decide they should join the NATO alliance then they can count on our support,” he said, adding, “Even in the period before such NATO membership is decided, they can always rely on Germany’s support. As Europeans, we see ourselves obliged to do so anyway.”
Scholz’s comments follow reports that Helsinki could declare its intent to join NATO as early as next week, with President Sauli Niinisto purportedly set to announce the move on May 12. It remains unclear if Stockholm will follow suit, though the country’s parliament recently said it would conduct a review of Swedish security policy before a decision is made.
While earlier reports stated both countries would submit their applications at the same time, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto has said his country could ultimately go ahead without its neighbor.
“Currently I think the mood in parliament… includes the possibility to go without Sweden,” the FM told the Irish Times in an interview last week. “It would be good to do the same things at the same time as Sweden, but that depends on Swedish decisions. It is too early to guess the date, but I think before the summer we are proceeding.”
Addressing journalists after Scholz on Tuesday, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said a decision had not yet been made and that “All options are on the table,” comments echoed by Finland’s prime minister, Sanna Marin.
“Finland and Sweden are facing important decisions regarding their own security,” Marin said, adding that “Russia’s attack on Ukraine has dramatically changed our security environment, and that cannot be undone.”
The German chancellor similarly labeled Russia’s military operation a “turning point” for security on the continent, saying the attack prompted Berlin to scrap a long-held policy against shipping weapons into active conflict zones. “It was right and necessary” to change that policy, Scholz continued, adding, “we are now providing large-scale support [to Ukraine], which we will continue to do.”