A NATO official told AFP on Tuesday that the alliance has no plans to send troops to Sweden and Finland if they complete their membership process, which officially started this week.
“We don’t plan to have an additional presence in either country, they have formidable national forces. They’re capable of defending themselves,” NATO Deputy Secretary-General Mircea Geoana said.
“We don’t plan to have NATO bases in these two countries, because they have a very high level of military and strategic maturity,” Geoana added.
Russian officials have said they don’t view Finland and Sweden joining NATO as much of a threat as Ukraine joining the alliance. But Moscow has made clear it would respond to the expansion of NATO military infrastructure.
“We don’t have problems with Sweden and Finland as we do with Ukraine,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said last week. “If Finland and Sweden wish to, they can join. That’s up to them. They can join whatever they want.”
But Putin warned that “if military contingents and military infrastructure were deployed there, we would be obliged to respond symmetrically and raise the same threats for those territories where threats have arisen for us.”
Finland shares an over 800-mile border with Russia, and if NATO equipment is deployed there, Russia could respond by strengthening its border or its forces in Kaliningrad, the Russian enclave on the Baltic Sea. NATO could always change its mind too and end up sending troops to Sweden and Finland in the future.
While NATO officials are hoping for a speedy application process, Turkey could still block Sweden and Finland from joining the alliance. Legislatures from all 30 NATO member states now need to approve their applications, and the Turkish parliament could say no if the Nordic nations don’t live up to an agreement they signed with Turkey last week.