The effects of Finland's possible NATO membership

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland has commissioned this assessment of the effects of possible NATO membership, in connection with the preparation of the Government’s Report on Finnish Foreign and Security Policy. This is the first assessment of its kind conducted at the request of the Finnish government since 2007: during the intervening decade, major strategic changes have occurred at the global, European and regional levels.

We were not entrusted with voicing a preference for or against NATO membership. Nor were we requested to provide a pro-and-con balance-sheet type approach. Our task has been to provide an evaluation of the potential effects of membership, in the most clinical manner possible. This does not mean that all effects of membership would be equally straightforward: some, such as the treaty commitments integral to Atlantic Alliance membership, or the direct impact of belonging to NATO’s command structure are comparatively easy to describe. Others, such as the possible reactions of Russia to Finland’s entry into NATO or the consequences of possible Finnish membership for the corresponding debate in Sweden are necessarily more probabilistic in nature. The text of the assessment reflects these differences in the degrees of certainty.

We have adhered to a strict interpretation of our mandate, with one substantive exception. In our work it became immediately apparent that the choices made by Finland and Sweden (or vice versa) to join or not to join NATO, separately or together, could lead to different effects for the security and defence of Finland. Thus, we have decided on our own initiative to extend our analysis to include a hypothesis whereby Sweden would join NATO but Finland would not, since this would change the regional strategic and military status quo for Finland.

The report does not cover the consequences of possible NATO membership of Finland for the Åland Islands, which are an autonomous part of Finland. The relationship between the international agreements that cover the sui generis status of these islands and the undertakings implied in membership need to be examined further. This was not possible within the time allotted to us.

We wish to express our gratitude towards the numerous individuals who kindly devoted their time to us in a number of capitals: their informed analysis and practical understanding has been indispensable to our work. However, the views expressed in this assessment are entirely our own. A special word of thanks is in order vis-à-vis the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, which has provided us with all of the necessary means to conduct our work, without seeking to influence its content at any juncture.

Mats Bergquist, François Heisbourg, René Nyberg, Teija Tiilikainen


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The effects of Finland's possible NATO membership


François Heisbourg, Mats Bergquist, René Nyberg, Teija Tiilikainen,

Finland, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

, April 29, 2016

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