Warsaw, Poland Neither Sweden nor Finland have raised the issue of membership in NATO at this week’s alliance summit, senior NATO officials told reporters Saturday, and NATO isn’t inviting them unless asked. “As a Norwegian,” Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in a press conference, “I know better” than to suggest that Sweden apply for NATO membership, adding that it never ends well when “people outside your country tell you what you should do.” A senior NATO official, speaking on background, however, said Sweden and Finland are fully interoperable with NATO and would be easy to admit, if they applied. “We invite them to our exercises … they are involved with us at the highest level,” and meet all of NATO’s requirements for democracies that observe human rights, he said. Moreover, if a war broke out in the Baltic region, “they know there’s no way they could step aside” and let the conflict happen around them, the official said. Membership is something “for them to decide,” Stoltenberg said. Sweden and Finland are members of the European Union, and increasing cooperation between NATO and the EU was high on the summit’s agenda. The two organizations will cooperate on cyber war, which NATO has just designated one of its fighting domains. Sweden’s air force uses many American-made munitions and jet engines, while Finland flies F/A-18 fighters and uses numerous US munitions, including the JASSM stealth missile. (See also: Nordic Ties.)
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.