NATO Plans To Hold Annual ‘Nuclear Deterrence’ Exercises
In a move that could risk infuriating Russia, nuclear weapons could possibly be positioned in Finland if the country’s application to join NATO is approved, according to a report from a Finnish newspaper.
Both Finland and Sweden submitted applications to join NATO in May, in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. According to the Helsinki-based newspaper Iltalehti, the bill regarding potential NATO membership the Finnish government will put before parliament doesn’t include any opt-outs for nuclear weapons.
Speaking to the paper, defense sources said Finland’s foreign and defense ministers, Pekka Haavisto and Antti Kaikkonen, gave a “commitment” to NATO in July that they wouldn’t seek “restrictions or national reservations” if Helsinki’s application is accepted.
Foreign policy insiders told Iltalehti this means NATO nuclear weapons could transit through, or be based on, Finnish territory. Additionally, there are no restrictions on establishing NATO bases in the country.
The U.S. already has around 100 nuclear weapons in Europe, positioned in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey according to the Federation of American Scientists.
Britain and France, both NATO members, also maintain their own independent nuclear arsenals.
Earlier this month, the Polish government said it had held discussions with the U.S. government about hosting U.S. nuclear weapons, though this hasn’t been confirmed by Washington.
Polish President Andrzej Duda claimed there is a “potential opportunity” for his country to engage in “nuclear sharing.”
According to its website, NATO is a “nuclear alliance,” which uses its nuclear arsenal to “preserve peace, prevent coercion and deter aggression.”
The importance of a nuclear deterrent was confirmed in NATO’s 2022 Strategic Concept, adopted by the alliance at its Madrid summit in June.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed membership applications from Finland and Sweden in May, describing the move as a “historic moment” for the alliance.
“I warmly welcome the requests by Finland and Sweden to join NATO,” he said. “You are our closest partners. All allies agree on the importance of NATO enlargement. We all agree that we must stand together, and we all agree that this is a historic moment which we must seize. This is a good day at a critical moment for our security.”
Finland and Sweden’s NATO applications have already been approved by the parliaments of 28 of the alliance’s 30 member states, with Hungary and Turkey the only two remaining to vote on the matter.
The main stumbling block is Turkey, with Ankara saying it will only approve the new members if they clamp down on Kurdish separatists, which it regards as terrorists.
Speaking on October 1, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said: “We will maintain our principled and determined stance on this issue until the promises made to our country are kept.”
NATO is currently conducting a nuclear exercise, called “Steadfast Noon,” which began on October 17 and will continue until October 30.
The drills involve around 60 aircraft, including U.S. B-52 bombers which are capable of carrying nuclear weapons.
Separately, Finnish seismologists recorded a series of five underwater explosions on Thursday and Friday, the origins of which are unclear.
Speaking to Newsweek earlier this month, Natalia Galibarenko, Ukraine’s ambassador to NATO, predicted the alliance will end up gifting combat aircraft to Kyiv.
Newsweek has reached out to the Finnish and Russian foreign ministries for comment.