Finland and NATO - FAQ

Why did Finland apply for NATO membership and how will membership strengthen Finland’s security?

Finland decided to apply for NATO membership to increase Finland’s security. The most significant effect of Finland’s NATO membership is that Finland is part of NATO’s collective defence and covered by the security guarantees enshrined in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty. The deterrent effect of Finland’s defence will be considerably stronger than before, as it will be based on the capabilities of the entire Alliance, on collective defence planning and on the political weight of the NATO member countries.

With Finland and Sweden as NATO members, the threshold for using military force in the Baltic Sea region will rise, which will enhance the stability of the region in the long term. NATO is a stabilising actor in the Baltic Sea region. Once Sweden has joined NATO, all of the Nordic countries will be NATO members, and they can advocate together for issues important to them within the Alliance.

What is the significance of NATO’s security guarantees?

Under Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, an armed attack against one member country is considered an attack against them all. Each member country is obliged to assist in ways that it deems necessary, including the use of military force, any member country that is the target of aggression.

What will it cost for Finland to be a member of NATO?

Each NATO country decides on the amount and allocation of its defence appropriations. Finland’s defence expenditure is proportionate to Finland’s defence needs.

NATO membership will involve additional direct costs arising, for example, from participation in the financing of NATO’s common budgets and from the secondment of personnel to NATO’s military command structure. The annual costs of NATO membership and of acceding to its political organs and command structure are estimated at EUR 70–100 million.

In addition, accession to the NATO Defence Planning Process and meeting the capability targets allocated to Finland as well as participating in NATO’s operational planning will cause significant additional costs for Finland.

The Allies’ national defence spending is an important part of NATO’s defence activities. As a member of NATO, Finland will commit to spending at least two per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on defence expenditure. It is estimated that Finland will spend 2.38 per cent of its GDP on defence expenditure in 2023 and around two per cent in 2024 and 2025 as Finland will be financing strategic projects for the Navy and the Air Force.

Will NATO membership bring nuclear weapons or NATO bases to Finland?

NATO member countries have full autonomy in deciding which military activities, bases or equipment they will host on their territory. For example, the question of a military presence must be assessed from a political perspective and in terms of military needs, taking into account the development of the security environment.

NATO is a nuclear alliance and will remain one as long as nuclear weapons exist. The purpose of NATO’s nuclear deterrence is to preserve peace, prevent the coercion of the Alliance and deter aggression against its members. NATO seeks to improve the international security environment, with the goal of a world without nuclear weapons.

As a NATO member, Finland will commit to NATO’s nuclear policy and nuclear deterrence. Finland will continue to support the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, also known as the Non-Proliferation Treaty, that promotes international security. Finland will advocate for a stronger status for nuclear non-proliferation and the Non-Proliferation Treaty and for their more efficient implementation. Finland favours a gradual approach to nuclear disarmament that promotes the security of all countries. The Nuclear Energy Act prohibits the import of nuclear explosives as well as their detonation in Finland.

NATO nuclear policy is coordinated by the Nuclear Planning Group (NPG) and the bodies operating under it. As a member of NATO, Finland will participate in the formulation and coordination of NATO’s nuclear policy.

Does NATO membership mean that Finnish conscripts will be sent to participate in NATO operations outside of Finland?

Under Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, NATO member countries are obliged to participate in the collective defence of the Alliance. This commitment obliges member countries to assist a member country under attack “by taking such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force”. Each member country decides for itself on the content and scope of its contribution. 

Participation in activities other than collective defence under Article 5, such as crisis management, is voluntary. NATO member countries decide for themselves which operations or missions they will participate in. Not all member countries participate in all operations.

Finland will continue to participate in NATO’s crisis management operations at its discretion and based on its own interests. As a partner nation, Finland participated in NATO’s crisis management operations in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Iraq, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Will NATO membership mean the end of general conscription? What happens to Finland’s national defence as a member of NATO?

NATO membership will not affect general conscription. Even as a NATO member, Finland will independently decide on the principles for implementing its national defence. 

Finland will retain primary responsibility for the defence of the territory of Finland as a member of NATO.

Does membership change Åland’s status as a demilitarised region? 

Finland is committed to complying with the international treaties that are binding on it, including treaties concerning the status of the Åland Islands under international law. These treaties do not prevent Finland from joining the military alliance. 

Finland’s membership in NATO will not affect the status of the Åland Islands, which is based on international treaties. The Åland Islands are part of Finland’s sovereign territory and, defending its neutrality is the responsibility of Finland under the treaties. These treaties are not in conflict with the obligations of Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty.

Finland respects the demilitarisation of Åland and is prepared to take the necessary measures to defend Åland’s neutrality.

Is it possible to leave NATO?

Article 13 of the North Atlantic Treaty states that once the Treaty has been in force for twenty years, any Party may cease to be a Party one year after giving its notice of denunciation to the Government of the United States of America. The Accession Protocols of individual members do not include separate provisions on withdrawal.

Under the customary rule of interpretation, Article 13 of the North Atlantic Treaty is generally interpreted in such a way that, because the Treaty has already been in force for more than 20 years, new Parties may cease to be Parties to the Treaty at any time with a one-year notice period.

Who decides in NATO?

The North Atlantic Council (NAC) is the principal political decision-making body within NATO. The NAC meets at different levels and is chaired by the NATO Secretary General.

NATO’s decisions are made on the basis of unanimity and common accord. Each member country participates in decision-making on an equal basis.

NATO has a civilian and a military structure. The military structure receives political guidance from the member countries.

How is Finland represented in NATO?

Finland has, like all other NATO member countries, a permanent representation (a mission) at NATO Headquarters that represents Finland in NATO’s committees and working groups. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defence, the Finnish Defence Forces, the Prime Minister’s Office and the National Emergency Supply Agency have all seconded experts to Finland’s Mission to NATO.

The Head of Mission represents Finland in NATO’s highest decision-making body, the North Atlantic Council, which meets regularly also at the level of foreign and defence ministers. In addition, the North Atlantic Council meets at summit level with the participation of heads of state and government. Summits are organised usually every year or every two years. The Chief of Defence of the Defence Forces represents Finland in the Military Committee. Finland is represented by its Military Representative in the Committee’s daily work.

How did Finland ratify Sweden’s membership of NATO?

Finland deposited Sweden’s instrument of ratification immediately after acceding to NATO on 4 April 2023. The Government proposal on Finland’s accession to NATO states that Finland’s decision to accede to the North Atlantic Treaty, as amended by the Accession Protocols, includes the Accession Protocol of Sweden and thereby authorises Finland to ratify Sweden’s Accession Protocol. The signing of the Accession Protocol was authorised on 23 March by a decision of the President of the Republic.