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May 22th, 2024

Finland, Sweden, NATO and nuclear weapons

Finland and Sweden were until recently traditionally non-allied countries and thus unequivocally non-nuclear-weapon countries. Both countries have a long tradition in promoting nuclear disarmament. These stances are now at stake since Finland and Sweden have joined NATO.

Finland’s current Nuclear Energy Act prohibits the import of nuclear explosives as well as their manufacture, possession and detonation in Finland. Sweden has no formal law prohibiting nuclear weapons, but decisions have been made by previous parliaments that Sweden is nuclear-free.

When Finland joined NATO, the decision-makers stated that no extra paragraph about nuclear weapons is needed in the agreement, as Finland already has a law prohibiting them. Now there have been suggestions from the governmental circles that this law should be changed. In any case, it will be opened for amendments because possible small nuclear reactors will need new regulation. During the Presidential election campaign earlier this year, Finland’s winning candidate Alexander Stubb stated that maybe Finland should at least allow nuclear weapons to be transferred through Finland, if necessary. Recently, he has backed down somewhat from this statement. Allowing this transfer would mean a clear change to the existing prohibition. No serious politician in Finland has stated that Finland should ask or allow permanent deployment of nuclear weapons in Finland – which would mean nuclear sharing.

In Sweden, the current Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson recently stated that Sweden should not prohibit the deployment of nuclear weapons during war-time, but even in that case the decision should be Sweden’s own, not NATO’s. The discussion on this has been lively during the Swedish parliament’s discussion on the Dual-capable Aircraft (DCA) agreement with the US. Many politicians have demanded including a clear prohibition of nuclear weapons. No-one is suggesting permanent nuclear bases or nuclear sharing in Sweden.

In answer to Kristensson’s statement the Finnish prime minister, Petteri Orpo, has very recently stated that Finland will not follow Sweden on the issue of allowing nuclear weapons during war-time. According to Orpo, there is political agreement that there is no need to change the Nuclear Energy Act concerning nuclear weapons. But of course, we cannot be certain this will be maintained, since the law will anyway be opened for amendments and some politicians have given their support to change it. What could help us to maintain the current paragraphs on nuclear explosions is that in Finland there is a long tradition to agree on foreign policy with consensus between the government and the opposition, and there would be a very strong (and hopefully loud) resistance in the parliament opposing nuclear weapons in Finland under any circumstances.

Both Finland and Sweden have been forced to think over their position about nuclear weapons in a new way. Neither country is asking for nuclear sharing – and NATO would probably not give them it, even if asked. Poland has been keen to host nuclear weapons, but NATO’s political and military leaders have thought this unwise. Sweden will probably weaken their opposition towards nuclear weapons by stating they could be allowed during war-time. Finland will probably keep them out in any circumstances.

As NATO members, Finland and Sweden are anyway facing a new situation. Both countries have accepted NATO’s nuclear deterrence as part of their defence doctrine, and are pleased to be under the nuclear umbrella. All this weakens the possibilities of these countries to work for nuclear disarmament and increases tensions in Northern Europe. But both countries will continue to be nuclear free – at least in peace-time.

Kati Juva
Co-president, IPPNW
Coordinator, ICAN Finland


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