Russia will not be able to stop Finland and Sweden from joining NATO if they apply to join the defense alliance later this year, Estonia's Ambassador to Finland Sven Sakkov said on Friday.
After Russia launched an attack on Ukraine on February 24, public support for joining the alliance has skyrocketed in both countries. Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin has said the country, which shares a border of over 1,300 kilometers with Russia, may apply in the coming months.
In the past, Russia may have had some sway in blocking the country's accession and has threatened "serious social and political consequences", but Sakkov said this is not the case now — the country can make threats but in reality do little else.
"In the past, before February 24, 2022, Russia would indeed have had the opportunity to respond to such actions by freezing economic relations or creating other such problems. At present, economic relations essentially no longer exist between the European Union and Russia. So the scope for action is narrow," he told ERR.
However, nothing can be done to stop Russia from making threats, he added.
The ambassador said Finland already has very strong defensive capabilities and, should it apply, it is thought the membership process will not take long. He said Estonia's ratification process took 14 months and it would be likely Finland and Sweden's applications would be fast-tracked.
"There is a need to hurry for political reasons," Sakkov said. He believes all 30 members could ratify the applications in between two and four months.
"Of course, that is my opinion, because in the end there are 30 sovereign parliaments that have to decide. But I think everyone understands that it will be useful to do it quickly."
He said the Finns also worry something may happen during the time between applying and accession. This would be another reason to keep the process as short as possible, Sakkov told ERR.
At the moment, experts believe Finland will submit an application followed by Sweden, rather than jointly, he said.
Last week, Sanna Marin told her party delegates that it was time for Finland to seriously reconsider its stance on military allegiance.
Russia's military aggression in Ukraine has forced Finland to reexamine its security policy, according to Marin, who said, "Russia is not the neighbor we thought it was."
Any decision to seek Nato membership would have to be made "thoroughly but quickly," essentially this spring, she said in a speech.
Editor: Helen Wright