In Sweden, the previously NATO-skeptic Social Democratic Party may be reversing its stance on the country’s membership in the alliance, stating that Sweden could join NATO if neighboring Finland is also in, according to an article in Stratfor.
The issue has come up regularly in both countries, the article read. However, they have postponed joining the alliance for quite some time, and public opinion regarding accession is currently unfavorable.
As for now, Sweden is already in the Partnership for Peace program with NATO and participates in NATO drills, but it is not fully integrated and carries no obligations toward NATO members.
"In a strict military sense, Sweden and Finland would gain some capacity and extra diplomatic cover by joining NATO, but ultimately the military balance between NATO and Russia would not necessarily be altered," it read.
The biggest change would be the political signal that NATO, Finland and Sweden would be sending, according to Stratfor. Even without taking actual steps to join the alliance, both countries are now trying to show their solidarity against Russia.
Russia in turn is concerned by the situation and has made it clear it would respond to a Swedish attempt to join NATO.
"It is clear that Sweden joining NATO would have military-political and foreign policy implications that would require reciprocal steps from the Russian side," the Russian Foreign Ministry said last week.
However, Moscow is more concerned about Finland’s membership, according to the article.
"This [Finland’s admission] would put yet another NATO member just a stone's throw from St. Petersburg and would surround Russia's position on the Baltic Sea with NATO members. Finland is much more hesitant to join, knowing Russia would likely react not only militarily but also with trade restrictions," it read.
"From a NATO perspective, having Sweden and Finland in the alliance would be greatly beneficial; they would bolster Europe's northern area against Russian missiles and aircraft flyovers. In addition, the fact that both are already members of the European Union should allay any fears the existing members might have about them joining the alliance," according to it.
Actually, both countries are already aligned with NATO on a military level and building up military integration with the Alliance, the article read. This is why debates on NATO admission are more of a political gesture in the face of the mythical Russian threat.