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Finland, Sweden edge closer to NATO host nation status

Finland and Sweden are expanding their cooperation with NATO. Defence Minister Carl Haglund told Yle on Wednesday that the government plans to sign an agreement on a new type of partnership at next week’s NATO summit in Wales.

Keskustan kansanedustaja Seppo Kääriäinen
Ex-defence minister Seppo Kääriäinen says Finland has been negotiating a host nation support agreement for 10 years. Image: Toni Pitkänen / Yle

The Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet says that the Swedish government will likely decide on Thursday to approve a so-called host nation support agreement with the North Atlantic military alliance NATO. Such a deal would allow the deployment of NATO rapid reaction forces on Swedish soil.

According to Swedish sources, the arrangement would allow NATO forces to use Swedish land, airspace and maritime territory while en route to operations. Sweden would guarantee the troops’ logistical and support operations. This could include providing them with food and ammunition.

Finland could request support in civilian crises

Speaking on Yle Radio 1 on Wednesday morning, former defence minister Seppo Kääriäinen said that Finland has been negotiating on its own host nation support agreement for a decade. The opposition Centre Party MP is now deputy chair of the parliamentary Defence Committee.

Under the envisaged wording, Finland would have the option of providing operational support to NATO forces in various kinds of crisis situations, including purely civilian situations, says Kääriäinen. He points out that Finland would always make the decision whether to request assistance.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Alexander Stubb told Yle that Finland will participate in the next NATO meeting in a different category than in the past, adding that “in concrete terms, it means to a great extent systems shared with NATO and with Sweden. We're in a special status [as] partnerships are being reconsidered.”

NATO support ticks up

Meanwhile a poll published by Finland’s biggest paper, Helsingin Sanomat, on Wednesday suggests that more Finns now back the idea of full NATO membership.

According to the survey, 26 percent of respondents now support joining NATO – up from 22 percent in a corresponding poll last March. However a strong majority – 57 percent – still say no to membership, with 17 percent undecided.

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