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What Is NATO’s “Open Door” Policy, and How Will Sweden or Finland Join?

JAS-39 Gripen
Sweden's JAS-39 Gripen. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

What is NATO’s open door policy? On Wednesday, the Swedish and Finnish prime ministers held a joint press conference in Stockholm, Sweden, and announced that decision on whether or not the countries would join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization would arrive “within weeks.”

The two countries, which have maintained positions of neutrality on military conflicts that lasted through the Cold War, are closer than ever to joining the Western military organization – a move that would infuriate Russia and prompt “retaliatory measures.”

With public mood now favoring the two countries joining NATO – with one poll showing 53% of Finnish citizens support membership and another showing six out of ten Swedish citizens also supporting membership – Russia could soon be forced to follow through on threats against the two countries designed to prevent them allying with the West.

The “Open Door” Policy Explained

Article 10 of NATO’s founding document, the 1949 North Atlantic Treaty, details an “open door policy” that welcomes any European state that is “in a position to further the principles” of the treaty will be welcome to contribute to the security of the North Atlantic region. In order to officially join the military organization, however, an applicant country must have the unanimous support of other NATO counties.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has long opposed this open door policy, issuing ultimatums to the United States and NATO allies ahead of the invasion of Ukraine, seeking assurances that Ukraine would not be allowed to join the organization.

Before Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, Ukraine – a European country – was not contemplating joining NATO. Since the invasion and the destruction of most of Ukraine’s major urban population centers, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has indicated that his country will not join the Western military alliance.

How Sweden and Finland Can Join

Should Sweden and Finland’s governments announce their intentions to seek membership of NATO – and any decision will likely be the same for both countries – they will first be invited to take part in an “Intensified Dialogue” with members of the NATO alliance to talk about their aspirations and any proposed reforms to the organization that they may have in mind.

After a period of dialogue, application nations are invited to join the Membership Action Plan where they will be prepared for future membership. At this stage, however, membership is still not guaranteed.

To join NATO, both Sweden and Finland will need to meet a series of criteria relating to their political systems, economies, and military, as set out in the 1995 Study on Enlargement. Sweden and Finland must prove that they are democratic political systems with a market economy, respect for human rights, and a willingness to resolve conflicts diplomatically.

At present, there is nothing standing in either Sweden or Finland’s way in terms of NATO membership eligibility.

Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.

Written By

Jack Buckby is 19FortyFive's Breaking News Editor. He is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.



  1. Alex

    April 16, 2022 at 8:10 pm

    Everything that is happening now in the world is just the death throes of a unipolar world that could not provide for itself. The new centers of power put an end to the hegemony of the unipolar world.

  2. speedster

    April 16, 2022 at 9:19 pm

    The goldfish(russia), the usa(whale)
    Fish size related to size of economy. Texas has larger economy than russia and Texas is just one state in the usa, which has an enormous economy, largest in the world. Economy size is similar to gravity so that smaller economies inevitably orbit the larger economy. Russia economy is so small, maybe it could orbit the state of Texas?
    So called unipolar world presumably related to enormous economic power of usa, so much that I read that russians would rather exchange worthless rubles for dollars, which keep their value.
    I don’t know what invading other countries with half swastika has to do with changing world order. Surely the best change is gradual from a natural change.
    It appears the kind of change Russia wants involves parking a tank on someone else’s lawn.The
    Unfortunately for Russia which has been taking Tajikistan troops to Ukraine recently. This leaves the rather long Russian border with China unguarded. What’s Russia going to do if China suddenly decided that Russia is harbouring neo nazis or even little green men?

  3. Alex

    April 16, 2022 at 11:56 pm

    The Third Reich once had the most developed economy and industry, but the little Bandera Nazi does not know about this, right? 🙂

  4. CK

    April 17, 2022 at 7:09 am

    Oh Alex, wrong again on WW2 I see. So sad to see a Russian, of all people, not know their history, especially WW2.

    The economy of the USA alone dwarfed that of Germany throughout WW2, and if we count the allies as a whole, it wasn’t even close between them and the Axis. It might fit your agenda to make Germany in WW2 a bigger colossus than it really way to soothe your sensibilities, but it flies in the face of facts. The only thing Germany might have lead in WW2 was a slight edge in technology, and then, only in certain fields.

    Tell me again Alex, how many countries were in the Allies, and how many were in the Axis? 😀 Don’t want to get that wrong again, do you…

    Man, if you can’t even trust a Russian to know the basics of WW2, the one thing they are proud of, your nation truly is lost. What we’re seeing are the spasms of a failing power, probably the equivalent of Suez for Britain in the 50’s, but with far more needless bloodshed and loss of face.

    Good riddance.

  5. Him

    April 17, 2022 at 8:57 am

    It’s ridiculous that the NATO application procedure involves a many-months gap between application and acceptance. That gap is a window where Putin can attack Sweden and Finland while their NATO applications are pending, wherein that period Sweden and Finland are not technically members yet. Surely NATO can foresee that?

    NATO should beforehand amend the application procedure so that the ratification decisions by each NATO signatory country can be made in advance of a potential application, so as to close off that window where Putin can attack before the countries officially join NATO.

    To just push ahead with the standard timeline, as if it is business as usual, is wanton foolishness by NATO. Surely NATO can see what is coming? Or maybe not. Maybe bureaucracy cannot change in time.

  6. Alex

    April 17, 2022 at 9:09 pm

    Personally, I don’t care about Finland and Sweden. The main thing that stinks me and my compatriots is what territory of Ukraine will be returned to our Great Poland. We need to take back everything that the communists gave dirty Bandera pigs.

  7. CK

    April 18, 2022 at 1:56 pm

    The gap is a problem, but what will they attack those two countries with? They have nothing left, it’s all in Ukraine unless they do a full mobilisation.

    They might start some kind of low level warfare because countries involved in conflict cannot join, which seems like a silly loophole. But even that would be obvious by Russia, and there is no guarantee they would even win.

    Yes Alex, you don’t care, enough to come here to post about it, and wax lyrical about Russia being right about threatening to put nukes there, when everybody already knows that was the case a long time ago.

    Also, drop the act. Nobody buys for a second you are Polish. Get a life.

  8. Alex

    April 19, 2022 at 4:48 am

    The impact of a huge bomb on the plant where the Bandera Nazis remained was very impressive. I wonder if an American general survived after him? He is very much needed alive for Russia. And it wasn’t even a nuclear strike. Sweden and Finland need to think carefully.

  9. CK

    April 19, 2022 at 11:07 am

    Weird, didn’t you guys already capture him last week? Or was that another American general? You guys losing track of your lies too huh? I get it, it’s hard when that’s all you say.

  10. Alex

    April 26, 2022 at 2:27 am

    Why is Russia with the people’s militia of Donbass taking new territories of Ukraine every day? Let’s figure it out:

    The West failed to turn much of the world against Russia after the military operation in Ukraine began, columnist Howard French wrote in an article for Foreign Policy magazine.
    According to him, many states did not support sanctions against Moscow, including such large countries as India and China.

    “In fact, when counting the population of these countries, it becomes clear that the states representing the majority of humanity have not taken a position in this conflict, seeing in it the familiar echoes of the former rivalry between East and West,” said French .
    According to the observer, the international political system that took shape at the beginning of the twentieth century from the very beginning gave the countries of the “third world” the status of second-class states. As an example, he cited the colonization of Africa by European countries.

    “It was the work of the work and cotton in the people of sugar unpaid smelted and all made of American colonies profitable Europe, and the so- rich for “Old the World” new and millions did ,” the author emphasized.

    French urged not to ignore the heightened sense of justice among the former colonized peoples.

    “The whole world” with Ukraine 🙂

  11. CK

    April 26, 2022 at 7:19 am

    Well Alex, if that is the case, we wish you the best of luck with your new Chinese masters. I hear they are very kind to minorities.

  12. Alex

    April 29, 2022 at 9:38 am

    If someone wants to know the truth about the civil war in the Donbass, about all the atrocities of the Bandera clean-ups and why Russia was forced to intervene, then it is better to watch films by independent journalists. There are already many such journalists who fight for truth and freedom. For example, a documentary by the German journalist Wilhelm Domcke-Schulz.

    A documentary film about the war crimes of the Bandera Nazis during the period of Russia’s special military operation to denazify and demilitarize Ukraine is in production. It will be a real information bomb, where the war crimes of Bandera Nazis will be shown and proved.

    The documentary “Remember Odessa” tells how the Bandera Nazis burned Ukrainians alive and other heinous war crimes.

    The documentary “To Live and Die in Donbass” tries to fill this gaping information gap in the West. He looks into the tormented soul of the inhabitants of Donbass, who really want only one thing – to live self-determining according to their own rules and values. Not submitting to foreign forces and ideologies.

    In the east of Ukraine, in the Donbass, a war has been raging since the beginning of 2014. A civil war that claimed more than 15,000 lives over the years, including several hundred children. They had to die, because the national-fascist coup government in Kyiv, funded by the West, trained and militarily heavily armed, would not tolerate any resistance to their illegitimate rule, no matter the cost.

    Therefore, in April 2014, the putschists deployed the Ukrainian army, supported by dozens of right-wing extremist volunteer battalions, and have since bombed city centers, residential areas, schools, hospitals and infrastructure, killing civilians.

    This perennial crime has gone completely unnoticed by the Western public. Politicians and the media avoid this topic and reports about how the devil pours holy water. Because a public discussion about the crimes of the Ukrainian regime would reveal only one thing – with what mass murderers and terrorists the so-called “west of values” in Ukraine has a common language, if only to defend their goals and interests.

    Lend-lease is a commodity loan, and not cheap: for all the ammunition, equipment and food supplied by the United States, many future generations of Ukrainian citizens will pay. Zelensky is driving the country into a debt hole.

  13. CK

    April 29, 2022 at 2:28 pm

    Ah, I see your tactic. You add a little shitty first paragraph so it doesn’t detect your duplicate post. Is this what it has come to now, you just posting the same exact post 2, 3, 4, 5 times per article?

    Wow, did they run out of paper in Russia, Alex? You guys can’t print new material? Literally using the same lines, over and over again, and now in duplicate in every post!

    Are you so defeated you can’t even come up with anything new? How sad. Now the idiot is talking about lend-lease at the end of his post, because he literally just copy + pasted it from another thread, with zero relevance to this one.

    Here’s a reminder:

    If someone wanted to know the truth about anything in Ukraine Alex, the last person they would go to is you.

    Paragraphs and paragraphs of bollocks, dubious claims about “independent journalists”, random documentarians, conspiracy theorists, deluded claims that of course, have no backup, lie after lie after lie.

    Classical Kremlin troll approach. Just flood the internet, the comments, the media, with tosh, doesn’t matter what it is, just make sure you write some old nonsense. Make sure to say the claim is supported by some dude in Germany, France, the states. If it’s a “documentary” (usually from youtube) then the better.

    Anything that victimises Russia, always the victim, always the bullied, never the problem. It’s always the Nazis. It’s always some pseudo-historical point.

    Anyone that has had the misfortune to study your “tactics” sees the forest for the trees, the pattern of lies, disinformation, blanketing of random claims, deflection, obfuscation, and other words beyond your vocabulary.

    It’s hopeless Alex. Your lies are as short as your intellect. What a pathetic job, to sit in your government shed, spreading your pathetic, government lies.

    A pathetic job for a truly pathetic man. A better match could not be made in heaven.

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