MOSCOW, May 14. /TASS/. Finland and Sweden will join NATO in the near future regardless of how their dialogue with Russia goes, Program Director at the Valdai Discussion Club Oleg Barabanov told TASS.
"I think they believe that it’s decided. NATO is making official statements about the membership prospects of Finland and Sweden and they are paying no attention to Russia," the expert noted.
According to him, even the risk of Russia halting gas supplies to Finland won’t impact the process. However, in Barabanov’s words, the two countries will join the alliance very soon. "I expect that they will do it very quickly, it is a matter of a few months or even weeks," he specified.
The expert explained that judging by NATO’s previous expansion, the process usually took about two years based on the need to assess candidates’ compliance with NATO’s standards. As far as Finland and Sweden are concerned, a decision will be made faster because NATO’s view of the security situation in Europe changed after the launch of Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine, Barabanov pointed out. An important factor is that the two countries’ armed forces already meet NATO’s standards.
When speaking about the consequences of NATO’s potential expansion, the analyst emphasized that military tensions on the Russian-Finnish border would flare up. "Apparently, NATO troops will be deployed there and various provocations and incidents will start taking place, involving aircraft entering Russia’s airspace and other things that we have seen on the border with Poland and the Baltic states," the expert said.
Discussions on Finland’s accession to NATO intensified in early April. Key NATO members welcomed the idea, as well as the majority of Finnish lawmakers. Sweden is also considering this option. The country’s ruling Social Democratic Workers' Party is expected to make a decision regarding the country's NATO membership on May 15.