Finland is applying for NATO membership

Finland’s security environment was fundamentally altered when Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Based on a reassessment of the security policy situation following this development, the President of the Republic has decided, on the proposal of the Government and after consulting the Parliament, on Finland’s application for NATO membership.

NATO membership would strengthen Finland’s security in the changed security environment and would also improve stability and security in the Baltic Sea region and Northern Europe. Finland’s strong defence capability and resilience to crisis would also strengthen NATO and the collective defence of the Alliance.

Through NATO membership, Finland would be a part of NATO's collective defence and, thus, would be covered by the security guarantees enshrined in Article 5 of the Treaty. As a member of NATO, Finland would participate in making decisions on security policy issues that are of key importance to Finland.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is Finland applying for NATO membership and how would membership strengthen Finland’s security?

Applying for NATO membership is a decision related to Finland’s security. The most significant effect of Finland’s possible NATO membership would be that Finland would be part of NATO’s collective defence and be covered by the security guarantees enshrined in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty. The deterrent effect of Finland’s defence would be considerably stronger than it is at present, as it would be based on the capabilities of the entire Alliance, on collective defence planning and on the political weight of the NATO member countries. 

Should Finland and Sweden become NATO members, the threshold for using military force in the Baltic Sea region would rise, which would enhance the stability of the region in the long term. NATO is a stabilising actor in the Baltic Sea region.

If Finland and Sweden were to join NATO, all of the Nordic countries would be NATO members. This means that the Nordic countries could advocate together for issues important to them within the Alliance.

How will NATO decide on Finland’s membership and how long will the accession process take? 

The NATO member countries have to reach a unanimous decision before accession talks can start. The accession process involves accession talks and the ratification of the Accession Protocol. The Accession Protocol must be signed and approved by all NATO member countries. This has an impact on the duration of the process. Once the protocol is ratified, the NATO member countries will invite Finland to accede to the North Atlantic Treaty. 

There has been some variation in how long it takes for a country to accede to NATO. Estimates of how long Finland’s process would take range from a few months to one year.

What are the criteria for NATO membership?

NATO’s Open Door policy is based on Article 10 of the North Atlantic Treaty. Under Article 10, NATO membership is open to any European country that is in a position to further the principles of the Treaty and to contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area (in practice, the Euro-Atlantic area). 

In addition to these criteria, NATO has set certain political, economic and military requirements for new members that have joined since the Cold War. 

New countries must also meet certain minimum military requirements before they can become members.

Ultimately, the approval of new members is based on a case-by-case political assessment and a unanimous decision by the NATO member countries.

Would NATO security guarantees be in effect during the accession process?

NATO security guarantees apply to NATO member countries. They do not apply during the accession process.
    
At the same time, it is also in NATO’s best interest that the process proceed as smoothly as possible. 

What will it cost for Finland to be a member of NATO?

Each NATO country decides on the amount and allocation of its defence appropriations. Finland’s defence expenditure is proportionate to the needs of Finland’s defence. 

As a member of NATO, Finland would commit to spending approximately two per cent of its GDP on defence expenditure in line with NATO’s target. Finland already meets this target. 

NATO membership would involve additional direct costs arising, for example, from participation in the financing of NATO’s common budgets and the secondment of personnel to NATO’s military command structure. The costs will be further specified, but it is estimated that they would be between 1 and 1.5 per cent of the current defence budget.

Would NATO membership bring nuclear weapons or NATO bases to Finland?

NATO member countries retain their full right to self-determination when it comes to permitting military activities, bases, materiel and equipment on their territory. For example, the issue of a military presence should be assessed from a political perspective and in terms of military needs, taking into account the development of the security environment.

Some NATO member countries have placed restrictions on NATO’s activities on their territory, such as refusing to have bases stationed there. From the perspective of treaty law, these restrictions do not constitute reservations. 

No country has ever made reservations to the North Atlantic Treaty. New NATO member countries enjoy full rights and obligations under the Treaty.

Does NATO membership mean that Finnish conscripts would be sent to participate in NATO operations outside of Finland?

Under Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, NATO member countries are obliged to participate in the collective defence of the Alliance. This commitment obliges member countries to assist a member country targeted by an attack “as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force”. Each member country decides for itself on the content and scope of its contribution. 

Participation in activities other than collective defence under Article 5, such as crisis management, is voluntary. NATO member countries decide for themselves which operations or missions they will participate in. Not all member countries participate in all operations.

As a member of NATO, Finland would continue to participate in NATO’s crisis management activities at its own discretion and in line with its interests. As a partner country, Finland has participated in NATO’s crisis management operations in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Iraq, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
 
Would NATO membership mean the end of general conscription?/
What would happen to Finland’s national defence if Finland were to become a NATO member country?

NATO membership would not affect general conscription. Even as a NATO member country, Finland would independently decide on the principles for implementing its national defence. 

Finland would retain primary responsibility for the defence of the territory of Finland as a member of NATO.

Will membership change Åland’s status as a demilitarised region? 

Finland is committed to complying with the international treaties that are binding on it, including treaties concerning the status of the Åland Islands under international law. These treaties do not prevent Finland from joining the military alliance. 

Joining NATO would not affect the status of the Åland Islands, which is based on international treaties. The Åland Islands are part of Finland’s sovereign territory and, in accordance with the provisions of the treaties, defending its neutrality is the responsibility of Finland. These treaties are not in conflict with the obligations of Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty.

Finland respects the demilitarisation of Åland and is prepared to take the necessary measures to defend Åland’s neutrality.

Is it possible to leave NATO?

Article 13 of the North Atlantic Treaty states that once the Treaty has been in force for twenty years, any Party may cease to be a Party one year after giving its notice of denunciation to the Government of the United States of America. The Accession Protocols of individual members do not include separate provisions on withdrawal.

Under the customary rule of interpretation, Article 13 of the North Atlantic Treaty is generally interpreted in such a way that, because the Treaty has already been in force for more than 20 years, new Parties may cease to be Parties to the Treaty at any time with a one-year notice period.