Finland and Sweden are set to buy portable firearms and anti-tank weapons, Finland’s defense ministry has announced, as the Nordic countries have formally applied to join NATO.
The two countries will step up their cooperation in defense procurement by Finland joining an agreement to acquire anti-tank weapons from Swedish weapons maker Saab Dynamics, a subsidiary of Saab, the ministry said on Wednesday.
“Joint procurement made possible by the enforcement documents will improve the availability of critical defense equipment in Finland and Sweden as the countries will be able to operate through the same commercial agreement,” the ministry added.
Finland's Defense Minister Antti Kaikkonen also authorized preparations for a joint purchase of small fire arms, including assault rifles, shotguns, and arms for personal protection, the ministry said.
The agreement for anti-tank weapons enables purchases of missiles, recoilless rifles, ammunition and other related equipment, it said, adding the purchases are pending separate investment decisions.
Finland and Sweden have formally applied to join NATO, following a Russian military offensive against Ukraine and despite Russian warnings against the US-led military alliance’s eastward expansion. All 30 NATO members should unanimously agree for the two historically neutral countries to join the alliance.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said their potential membership in NATO poses no direct threat to his country but Moscow will respond if the US-led alliance bolsters military infrastructure in the two Nordic states.
Turkey, a member of NATO, has accused Sweden, and to some extent Finland, of providing sanctuary to elements linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) as well as the Gulen movement, which Ankara accuses of involvement in a 2016 coup attempt. Both groups are considered “terrorist” groups by Turkey. The PKK is also on the “terrorist” lists of the US and the EU.
On Friday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Ankara was “not favorable” toward Finland and Sweden joining NATO.
Meanwhile, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has voiced the bloc’s readiness to defend Finland and Sweden in the event of a Russian attack even before the two countries become NATO members.