‘It would backfire tremendously’ Ireland rejects EU states’ call to join NATO

Some non-aligned EU states are mulling the idea of joining NATO, with Finland and Sweden at the forefront of the initiative as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine persists. Finland will take a decision about whether to apply to join the US-led military alliance in the next few weeks, Prime Minister Sanna Marin said on Wednesday.

Finland and fellow Nordic state and neighbour Sweden are close partners with NATO but have shied away from joining the 30-member alliance, founded in 1949 to counter the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Speaking at a press conference with her Swedish counterpart, Ms Marin said: “We have to be prepared for all kinds of actions from Russia.”

She said the option to join NATO had to be carefully analysed but that everything had changed when Russian forces invaded Ukraine in late February.

“The difference between being a partner and being a member is very clear and will remain so. There is no other way to have security guarantees than under NATO’s deterrence and common defence as guaranteed by NATO’s Article 5,” she said.

“I won’t give any kind of timetable when we will make our decisions, but I think it will happen quite fast – within weeks not within months,” said the Finnish leader, whose country shares a 1,300-km (810-mile)-long border with Russia to the east.

But not everyone in the EU, who is not already part of NATO, thinks it would be a good idea to join the alliance.

Ireland’s European Affairs Minister Thomas Byrne said there are no plans for Dublin to join NATO.

He said: “The polls are not showing an appetite by the Irish public for NATO membership at the moment.

“If any government were to rush into it, I think it would backfire tremendously.”

Finland and Sweden, which is also reviewing its security policy with conclusions expected toward the end of May, both take part in NATO exercises and crisis management initiatives as well as exchange intelligence with the alliance.

But until recently the two Nordic neighbours felt peace was best kept by not publicly choosing sides.

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Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said there were pros and cons of being a member of NATO though the main advantage was the security of Article 5, under which the alliance regards an attack on one member as an attack on all.

Sweden was a neutral state during World War Two and has not fought a war for over 200 years.

Russia has repeatedly warned both countries against joining NATO. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has said that if Finland and Sweden entered NATO, Russia would have to “rebalance the situation” with its own measures.

Ireland’s Foreign Minister Simon Coveney is visiting Kyiv on Thursday.

Mr Coveney will visit areas in the Ukrainian capital directly affected by the Russian invasion and meet Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba and defence minister Oleksii Reznikov.

He is the first foreign minister on the UN Security Council to visit Kyiv since the war began.

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A statement from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said: “His discussions with the Ukrainian government will focus on how Ireland can continue to provide political, security and humanitarian support to Ukraine, assist Ukraine in its application for EU candidate status, take forward further EU sanctions on Russia and hold Russia to account for its brutal and unjustified invasion.”

Ireland has provided 20 million euro in humanitarian aid to the country and Ukrainian refugees in neighbouring counties, and 33 million euro in non-lethal assistance for the Ukrainian military through the European Peace Facility.

The DFA statement added: “Ireland has been at the forefront of putting in place a robust EU sanctions regime and of supporting international mechanisms to hold Russia to account for grave violations of international humanitarian law, including referring the situation in Ukraine to the International Criminal Court.”

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