Finland’s and Sweden’s accession to NATO would immediately enable the alliance to better deter Russia, the Biden administration’s nominee for NATO’s top ally commander told Congress on Thursday.
Whether the two countries’ applications will be accepted will be a diplomatic and political decision, a decision that will require the unanimous approval of the government bodies of the Member States, including US Senate. But from a military perspective, integration should be seamless, said General Christopher Cavoli, commander of the US Army Europe and Africa, who has been named NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander and Commander of the United States European Command.
“I look forward to Finland’s and Sweden’s accession to the alliance,” Cavoli told the Senate Defense Committee. “Each of these militaries adds a lot of capacity and capability to the Alliance from day one.”
Finland’s well-trained and well-equipped military is an “absolute expert” in defending its 830 km long border with Russia, Cavoli said. The Finnish military already uses US-made F / A-18 fighter jets and announced in February that it would purchase 64 F-35 jets, so equipment from both nations’ military will be easily interoperable.
Even though Sweden has a smaller military, it invests heavily in defense and will increase military spending by more than $ 300 million in 2022. Cavoli also highlighted the important capability it will bring to deter Russia at sea.
“Critically, they are taking a fleet with them to the Baltic Sea, which will be of enormous military importance to the alliance,” he said. “Whole [Baltic] The sea, with the exception of a few kilometers, will be the coastline of the NATO countries, which will create a completely different geometry in the area. ”
Cavoli also dismissed fears that the establishment of a new border with Russia could drain NATO resources, as Finnish troops have been independently defending that border for decades. In fact, the general claimed, it could add costs to the Russian military, which could draw troops from elsewhere to increase their presence at a border that they had previously kept sparingly guarded.
Finland and Sweden applied for NATO membership on 18 May and is now in a gray area where their aspirations to join the alliance could take revenge on Russia but the nations are not yet covered by NATO’s Article 5 security guarantee. The United States and others have promised to provide more protection while their applications are being considered.
“Virtually every possible attacker should be aware that the United States will be there for Finland and Sweden in the event of an attack,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on Friday.
To shorten the time when the two countries are in this middle ground, officials are trying to speed up the application process. President Joe Biden sent the resolution to the Senate to consider their NATO membership on May 19, just one day after they applied. And Senator Jeanne Shaheen, DN.H., and Senator Thom Tillis, RN.C., co-chairmen of the NATO Observer Group, released a bipartisan mail on Tuesday, the administration asks to do its part of the process as quickly as possible.
“We are determined to do our part to speed up the ratification of the Washington Treaty in order to ensure their rapid accession to NATO,” the letter, signed by more than 80 senators, said. “We urge you to expedite the process in the executive branch to ensure that the United States moves quickly to bring two talented and committed partners into our alliance as quickly as possible.”
Five Senators – Shaheen; Tillis; John Barasso, R-Wyo .; Mike Rounds, RS.D .; and Jerry Moran, R-Kan. – met on Tuesday with Finland’s Ambassador to the United States Mikko Hautala and the Swedish Ambassador to the United States Karin Olofsdotter, according to a statement from Shaheen’s office.
Shaheen and Tillis will also lead a bipartisan delegation of legislators to next month’s NATO top in Spain, where officials are expected to discuss the accession of Finland and Sweden and determine NATO’s strategic plan for the coming decade.