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Sweden and Finland are NATO role models for the rest of Europe

Swedish and Finnish troops take part in NATO military exercises on June 11, 2022, in the Stockholm archipelago. (Jonas Gratzer/Getty Images)

The accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO is not only timely, but also transformative.

Sweden and Finland have set the standard for what it means to be a NATO member by investing in their own military capabilities and taking responsibility for security in Europe.

The United States should be grateful to the two new NATO members who are doing their part, unlike some old NATO members who have failed to meet their defense spending targets or provide substantial military aid to Ukraine.

The US should also push other NATO members to do better, so that the US can focus its resources on the Indo-Pacific region and prioritize countering China’s growing threat and capabilities.

  • Sweden has the capabilities and strengths of an extensive domestic defence industry and armed forces, which with their ability to operate in the Baltic Sea fill a critical gap in NATO capabilities.
  • Finland has the capacity and strength of its manpower and armed forces, which are specially trained and equipped for cold weather combat.

Some European countries expect the US to take the lead in providing aid to Ukraine, even though Ukraine is primarily a European security issue. Sweden and Finland have also shown initiative and are among the largest contributors of military aid to Ukraine.

The Kiel Institute reported that between January 24, 2022 and April 30 of this year, Sweden allocated $2.89 billion in military aid to Ukraine, with Finland not far behind, which allocated $2.18 billion. As part of this aid, both countries have provided Ukraine with weapons, including but not limited to air defense systems, tanks, and ammunition.

Crucially, Sweden and Finland both meet NATO’s 2% of GDP defence spending guideline.

This year, both Sweden and Finland actively participated in Operation Steadfast Defender, an exercise that tested NATO’s defense plan and ability to deploy troops.

Within Steadfast Defender, Sweden and Finland hosted the Nordic Response exercise, with Finland contributing almost 4,000 troops and Sweden 4,500 troops. Most notably, in June, Sweden and Finland participated in Baltic Operations 2024, the largest recurring NATO naval exercise, practicing amphibious operations, artillery, anti-submarine warfare and air defense.

While it was Sweden’s first participation as a NATO member, the country hosted the exercise on the island of Gotland just two years earlier during Baltic Operations 2022, sending a “clear message of deterrence” to Russia, U.S. Vice Admiral Thomas Ishee said.

These actions are more than an expression of military commitment and signal a deeper strategic change of course towards enhanced regional cooperation.

As Sweden and Finland consolidate their positions within NATO, they are already shaping the future of military cooperation within the Baltic states, Europe and NATO.

Since joining NATO, Sweden and Finland have shown what it means to be a good member, by demonstrating both the will and the ability to contribute to Europe’s defense architecture. By investing in their military capabilities and even going beyond NATO’s 2% defense spending guideline, both countries are strengthening the alliance in ways that existing member states should emulate.

Sweden and Finland’s membership provides an additional deterrent against Russia’s temptation to commit aggression against a NATO member state.

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