Delegations from Sweden and Finland visited NATO's Allied Command Transformation in Norfolk, Virginia, on Tuesday August 23, to discuss their nations’ future accession to the Washington Treaty as well as the integration of their military forces into the Alliance.
Ms. Mari Eteläpää, the Defense Counselor of the Embassy of Finland to the United States, and Mr. Magnus Bergman, the Defense Counselor of the Embassy of Sweden to the United States, led the delegations which were hosted and met with General Philippe Lavigne, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation and other Allied Command Transformation leadership.
The visit allowed for Swedish and Finish officials to receive a formal introduction to NATO's Allied Command Transformation and its operations and responsibilities. It also provided a chance for all parties involved to take preliminary steps in military integration, which Allied Command Transformation will lead. Participants also took part in discussions of the implications and progress of Finland and Sweden’s joining the NATO Alliance.
The military integration process, led by Allied Command Transformation, progresses in parallel with the political process of accession into the Alliance. This means that during the current ratification process of the Accession Protocols by the current 30 Alliance members, the military integration process will continue on its own timeline.
To date, 23 of the 30 NATO Nations have already ratified the accession of the two Invitees. The military integration process commenced in July with Initial Integration Conferences held in Brussels with the formal standing up of the Accession & Integration Working Groups that will coordinate the military integration requirements. This work will usually continue after the political accession process has been completed. The conclusion of political accession is signified by the raising of the flags of the new Alliance members alongside the other 30 Allies. The military integration process will continue until it is assessed that the coordination of ongoing activities is no longer required through its Accession & Integration Working Group, and the Nation will continue its ongoing transformation alongside its fellow Allies.
The next step in the military integration process, will be the first meetings of both Accession & Integration Working Groups in Helsinki and Stockholm in September where the current status and progress of both countries will be analyzed, and the support requested from NATO to achieve each nation’s objectives, established. Ultimately, the objectives of the Accession & Integration Working Groups are to ensure that military interoperability between existing NATO Nations and new Allies is achieved. Under Allied Command Transformation’s lead, the Accession & Integration Working Groups coordinate the practical aspects of supporting the new members through advice, education, training support, and delivery and fitting of NATO equipment.
The functional areas of military integration coordinated by the Accession & Integration Working Groups are numerous and include Administration which incorporates legal, gender, language and national contribution to the NATO Command Structure. Additionally, the Accession & Integration Working Groups will coordinate military integration of Equipment & Modernization; Force Structure; Education, Training, Exercise and Evaluation policy & individual Education & Training; Collective Training, Exercises & Evaluation; Logistics; Medical, integration into NATO’s Integrated Air & Missile Defence System; Communication & Information Systems; and Cyber Defense.
So far Finland and Sweden have received NATO membership invitations, attended the initial Accession talks, signed the Initial Protocol, and commenced the formal military integration process at an Initial Integration Conference, and are now well on the road towards full-flagged membership in the Alliance. Once all 30 Nations have ratified the Accession Protocols within their own countries, the two Nations will sign the Washington Treaty and become full NATO members while receiving the ongoing support of NATO to ensure their full military integration. Upon completion of the military integration activities, the signing of a joint declaration of completion by Supreme Allied Commander Transformation and the new member Nation will signify the completion of all accession and military integration activities.