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24th Mar 2019

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Finland and Sweden to join Nato summit dinner

  • Finland and Sweden usually attend wider-format Nato meetings (Photo: nato.it)

Finland and Sweden will join Nato leaders’ talks at the upcoming summit in Poland, as the non-aligned states forge closer ties with the defence alliance.

The office of Finnish president Sauli Niinisto and the office of Swedish prime minister Stefan Lofven told EUobserver on Thursday (16 June) that the two leaders will take part in a “working dinner” with their counterparts from Nato member states, due to take place in Warsaw on 8 July.

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  • Stoltenberg said Warsaw summit is taking place at time of "high" tensions (Photo: nato.int)

Finnish and Swedish heads have attended recent Nato summits.

But Niinisto’s spokesperson, Katri Makkonen, said the Warsaw dinner would be “special” because in the past they were invited to summit events held in a wider format, for instance on Afghanistan or on Nato's “partners”.

The international force in Afghanistan contained Nato states and more than 20 other nations, including Finland and Sweden. Nato has dozens of “partner” countries around the world.

A Nato official told EUobserver on Thursday that “Finland and Sweden will … be represented at the Nato summit”. But he said that the summit agenda “is not yet finalised”.

The Nato official noted that Finland and Sweden’s foreign and defence ministers took part, for the first time ever, in Nato ministerial talks in Brussels in May and earlier this month.

“Finland and Sweden are two of Nato’s most important partners and are major contributors to our operations … We need each other more than ever to address the serious challenges we face”, the official said.

Neither of the two Nordic states are planning to join Nato.

But they are forging closer ties with the Western defence alliance and, separately, with the US, due to concern over Russia’s aggressive behaviour in Ukraine and in the Baltic region.

They have signed accords making it easier for Nato forces to deploy on their territory.

The leaders of all five Nordic states, including Nato members Denmark, Iceland and Norway, also attended a special US summit in May.

The Nato summit in Poland is to finalise plans to deploy four new Nato battalions in the Baltic states and in Poland as well as a new Nato brigade, an even larger force, in Romania.

Deterrence

Speaking in Brussels this week, Nato head and former Norwegian PM Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance did "not see any imminent threat against any Nato ally”, but he said that the Baltic and Polish battalions would be “combat-ready”.

“This is not about that Nato wants to fight a war or that we want to provoke a conflict, but … we know that strong deterrence is the best way to prevent war”, he said.

He said he is “ready” for Nato and Russian ambassadors to meet in the so called Nato-Russia Council before the Warsaw event.

“When tensions are high as now, it's even more important that we meet and that we keep channels for political dialogue open”, he said.

He said that Russian airforce manoeuvres, such as simulating attacks on US warships in the Baltic Sea, could “spiral out of control and create really dangerous situations”.

Obama brings together Nordic leaders

Sweden and Finland are moving one step closer to Nato-alligned Nordic neighbours at the initiative of US president Obama.

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