Despite their orientation toward the US and western Europe, Finland and Sweden since the Cold War had bet that their national security was best protected by staying out of NATO. They aimed to avoid disturbing the military balance in the Baltic Sea region and provoking Russia. However, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its demands to stop NATO expansion have now pushed both countries to seek entry into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Both countries conduct military exercises with NATO and increasingly share intelligence with it. They are part of the alliance’s Partnership for Peace program, which fosters cooperation with non-members, and, along with Ukraine, are among six so-called Enhanced Opportunity Partners that make “particularly significant contributions to NATO operations.” But they didn’t join the group earlier for historic reasons.