"A scenario where Finland joins NATO without Sweden would be impractical โ€“ but not unreasonable," says defense expert Jacob Westberg.

"One prefers Sweden to join, but it is better in the long term that Finland joins alone than that both are outside", he says.

Prime Minister Sanna Marin and Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson of Sweden. Archive image.
Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson. Archive image.

"Finland may consider moving forward with its NATO application without Sweden," said Finland's Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto on Tuesday morning.

Jacob Westberg, Associate Professor of War Science at the Swedish Defense University, points out, however, that Finland's main option still seems to be that the countries join NATO together. If this is not the case, the country has two other possible ways to go. Either Finland joins NATO without Sweden, or both countries are outside.

"It is the latter option that is simply not acceptable from the Finnish side. It was Finland that last spring started to draw on the NATO issue, then without knowing whether to bring Sweden with you or not", says Jacob Westberg.

"Not there yet."

Matti Pesu, researcher in security and defense policy at the Institute for Foreign Policy in Helsinki, also emphasizes that Finland's first choice is still to join NATO at the same time as Sweden.

"But if Erdogan were to say that he can accept Finland's application, but that Sweden can take months or even years, it could force the government to reconsider its position, provided NATO would be okay with Finland going in alone", says Matti Pesu.

"I want to stress that we are not there yet. This was the first signal that Finland is considering different options, and we should not overdramatize Haavisto's comments."

According to Pesu, there is growing frustration about the NATO process in Finland, not only among politicians but also among the public. Individual politicians have aired the idea that Finland could go ahead of Sweden, but this is the first time that a minister opens it up publicly.

"There is a change in Finland's position, or at least in the communication strategy. There is planning for a plan B and a plan C, but so far they have not been communicated. I believe that the Finnish Government has so far not wanted to weaken the Swedish negotiating position", says Matti Pesu.

Irractically for All

Haavisto's statement is "not unreasonable", says Jacob Westberg.

"Having a more vulnerable position with its long land border with Russia and its history of war, I mean that we cannot stand on the Swedish side demanding some form of eternal loyalty", he says.

However, a scenario in which Finland joins without Sweden would be impractical for the individual countries as well as for NATO, according to Westberg.

"If NATO, for example, is to transfer resources to Finland's help if needed, you would gain a lot if those resources could cross Swedish airspace. Similarly, it is very practical for Finland if they can operate on Swedish bases in defense of the country."

Sweden more vulnerable

Sweden, for its part, as a single non-aligned country, would be in a more vulnerable position. At the same time, the Russian reactions after Sweden and Finland applied to join NATO were not as sharp as some feared.

"Russia has kept busy militaryly in Ukraine, so any major armed attack is no reason to fear now anyway. We have also received security assurances from a larger number of major powers and we have a status as an invitee state now", says Jacob Westberg and adds:

"It makes it all the more likely that NATO will come to our aid regardless of whether or not we signed membership papers."