Last week, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation General Philippe Lavigne welcomed Ambassadors, Military Representatives to NATO, and senior defence officials from Sweden and Finland to NATO's Allied Command Transformation in Norfolk, Virginia for continued NATO Accession and Integration discussions.
Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, both Finland and Sweden acknowledged a desire within their populations to expand the close relationship with NATO and consider becoming full members. Both Nations commenced high-level discussions and began preparing their formal applications for NATO membership.
In May, Sweden and Finland submitted their applications for accession to the Washington Treaty and, after the signing of a tri-lateral agreement with Turkey on the eve of the NATO Summit in Madrid at the end of June, both were formally invited by all Allies to commence the accession process. In early July, Accession Protocols were prepared and signed by the 30 current NATO members. These Protocols are now undergoing ratification by individual Nations through their own parliamentary procedures. The military integration process also commenced in July, with NATO’s Allied Command Transformation serving an integral role by coordinating the military integration between the Invitees and existing NATO members.
In attendance during their visit to NATO’s Allied Command Transformation were the Finland and Sweden Ambassadors to NATO and the United States, the Military Representatives to NATO from both countries, Sweden’s Defence Attaché to the United States, and Finland’s Deputy Defence Counsellor. All of the visitors will play crucial roles in the accession and integration process in the coming months.
The most important topic of the discussions during the visit was the ongoing efforts to ensure timely and thorough interoperability and integration for both Nations’ military forces. In early December, an official progress update on the state of integration between the two Nations and the Alliance will be provided to NATO and each Invitees’ leadership in Brussels. This progress update will be delivered by the NATO’s Allied Command Transformation-led Accession & Integration Working Groups that were established in July, and who met in Helsinki and Stockholm in mid-September to coordinate NATO support help achieve each Invitees’ military integration objectives.
To date, Finland and Sweden have received NATO membership invitations, attended the initial Accession talks, agreed to the Accession Protocol, attended the NATO’s Allied Command Transformation-led Initial Integration Conference and Accession & Integration Working Groups, and are now fully engaged in the process of moving toward full-fledged membership in the Alliance.
When all 30 NATO nations have ratified the Accession Protocol, the two nations will be invited by the Secretary General to accede to the Washington Treaty and, upon depositing their instruments of accession with the US State Department, the Invitees will formally become NATO members and raise their flags alongside those of their fellow Allies.
NATO’s Allied Command Transformation-led military integration will continue until such time that its coordination activities are no longer required either because objectives have been met or can continue through regular NATO business as any other Ally. To signify the completion of the formal military integration activities, and the standing down of the Accession & Integration Working Groups, a Joint Declaration will be prepared and signed by General Lavigne, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, and the Chief of Defence of each of the new member Nations.
The accession of Finland and Sweden has been the fastest in NATO’s modern history and is enabling NATO’s Allied Command Transformation to rapidly integrate the two nations militaries into NATO norms and practices.