On Friday night, the NATO leaders’ summit party in Poland will feature Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and Finnish President Sauli Niinistö as special guests, personally invited by NATO Secretary General and former Norwegian PM Jens Stoltenberg.
“Sweden and Finland are real close friends of NATO. Close friends are invited to dinner and that’s what we do,” Stoltenberg said at a press conference prior to the summit in Warsaw as quoted by the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet.
Norway’s former prime minister called Sweden and Finland “very close partners,” lauding their contribution to many NATO operations, such as the one in Afghanistan. According to Stoltenberg, Sweden and Finland are crucial in matters pertaining to security and stability in the Baltic region.
“This is a partnership that is beneficial for both Sweden and Finland on the one hand, and for NATO and NATO allies on the other hand. And then it always is up to Sweden and Finland to decide if they want more than just a dinner,” Stoltenberg said about his invitation.
The focal points of the Warsaw summit include the deployment of four NATO battalions in Poland and the Baltic states to fence off “Russian aggression,” as well as a formal introduction of NATO missile defense systems already in use. Once the summit is over, Stoltenberg hopes to spark new life into the so-called NATO-Russia Council.
“We need more dialogue,” Stoltenberg explained.
It is the first time Finland and Sweden have participated in the Heads of State dinner at a NATO summit. Both countries have recently stepped up their cooperation with NATO to an unprecedented level and are now as close to NATO as one can get without becoming a full member. Last year, Finland and Sweden, also participated in various meetings at NATO headquarters in Brussels.
NATO holds major summits between member states’ heads of state and government every two years. This year’s edition will be held in Warsaw, Poland on Friday and Saturday. In addition to the 28 member countries, a series of meetings with other countries and leaders who in different ways collaborate with NATO will be held. For instance, the presidents of Afghanistan and Ukraine are expected to attend.
Sweden will be represented by Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, Foreign Minister Margot Wallström and Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist, whereas President Sauli Niinistö, Defense Minister Jussi Niinistö and Foreign Minister Timo Soini will represent Finland.