Finland Raced to Join NATO. What Happens Next Is Complicated,

Steven Erlanger, chief diplomatic correspondent in Europe for The New York Times

For now, the country is negotiating a bilateral defense cooperation agreement with the United States, the kind of accord Washington has with many countries around the world, making joint exercises easier to plan and quicker to implement. It will cover what kind of U.S. troop presence Finland would allow and where, and what sort of equipment NATO’s most powerful country will be able to bring to Finland for exercises or prepositioning. The agreement also governs issues like judicial jurisdiction should U.S. troops commit a crime.

The negotiations are complicated, said Elina Valtonen, Finland’s foreign minister, in an interview. Given its history of fending off Russian assaults, she said, Finland is protective of its sovereignty.

“Of course, it’s a balance, how to also defend your sovereignty against an aggressive and unpredictable neighbor, who does not respect the same values that we do with our friends and allies,” she said. “But Finland is a country where, typically, we like to have agreements, we like to have treaties, we are very legalistic.”

Finland’s relationship with the United States is considered as important as the one with the larger alliance, especially given the American nuclear deterrent that protects all NATO members. Finnish law prevents the importation or storage of nuclear weapons on its soil. But Finland will have to decide its policy on nuclear deterrence and the nature of its involvement in shaping NATO’s nuclear policy.

Much of the responsibility for integration with NATO rests with Gen. Timo Kivinen, the commander of Finland’s defense forces. At the core, he said in an interview, is Article Three of NATO’s charter, “which underlines that the first priority to defend a country lies with the country itself.” To him, it is as important as Article Five, which treats an assault on one member country as an assault on all. Läs artikel

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