Finland, Sweden sign defense protocol
09 Jul 2018, 23:47 ( 7 days ago)
Finland and Sweden on Monday signed a protocol of understanding on defense cooperation.
It was signed in Turku, western Finland, by Finnish Defense Minister Jussi Niinistö and his Swedish counterpart Peter Hultqvist.
The memorandum states that "no predetermined limits will be set on deepening the bilateral defense cooperation", but it states explicitly that "the memorandum does not contain mutual defense obligations". Execution of "bilateral military action and operations" is subject to separate national decisions.
Local observers said that as no limits have been set to military cooperation in either peace or war time, prerequisites have been created for an actual defense alliance, even though the text explicitly dismisses an alliance.
Talking to the media, both the Finnish and Swedish defense ministers referred to the "obligations to give mutual aid" in the EU Lisbon agreement. Hultqvist was quoted by a Finnish language newspaper Turun Sanomat as saying that "with this agreement we are creating such a structure that mutual assistance would be simple to carry out, if needed and if decided upon."
Commenting on the signing, Turun Sanomat said on Monday that "normally countries make first an agreement at the political level and then start implementing it. But in Finnish-Swedish defense cooperation the speed became so fast some years ago that no basic political agreement was put down in writing. The mistake was corrected now in Turku."
Practical military cooperation between Finland and Sweden started in 2014. The cooperation widened fast, but there was no formal document signed until now.
The published text of the memorandum brought no surprises as practical cooperation is already under way. Both ministers said, however, that a memorandum is required to assure continuity as governments change.
There will be a general election in Sweden in September and one in Finland next year.
"Cooperation gets now long term political continuity, predictability and stability," Hultqvist said. Niinistö said that the memorandum also "gives an international signal".
Cooperation between the two Nordic countries has comprised mutual participation in military exercises in both countries. A joint naval task force attained initial operational preparedness last year.
The bilateral Finnish-Swedish document was preceded by a tripartite understanding that also included the United States late last year. Finland and Sweden have had separate agreements with the United States.