Finland and Sweden have officially applied to join NATO

Brussels — NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday that Finland and Sweden have formally applied for join the world’s largest military alliancea movement driven by security concerns Russian war in Ukraine

“I warmly welcome Finland and Sweden’s requests to join NATO. You are our closest partners,” Stoltenberg told reporters after receiving their application letters from the ambassadors of the two Scandinavian countries.

“All allies agree on the importance of NATO enlargement. We all agree that we must stand together, and we all agree that this is a historic moment to seize. a good day at a critical time for our security,” said a beaming Stoltenberg, standing next to the two envoys, with NATO, Finnish and Swedish flags on their backs.

The application now has to be weighed by the 30 Member States. That process is expected to take about two weeks, although Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed reservations about Finland’s and Sweden’s accession.

If his objections are allayed and the accession talks go as expected, the two could join in a few months. The process usually takes eight to 12 months, but NATO wants to act quickly given the threat posed by Russia over the heads of the Scandinavian countries.

For example, Canada says it expects to ratify its accession protocol within days.

NATO holds ceremony to mark Sweden and Finland's membership application in Brussels
Finnish Ambassador to NATO Klaus Korhonen, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Swedish Ambassador to NATO Axel Wernhoff attend a ceremony in Brussels, Belgium to mark Sweden’s and Finland’s formal applications for NATO membership, on May 18, 2022.

JOHANNA GERON / REUTERS


Public opinion in Finland and Sweden has changed dramatically in favor of membership since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

Finland and Sweden are NATO’s closest partners. They have functioning democracies, well-funded armed forces and contribute to the alliance’s military operations and air policing. All the obstacles they face are of a purely technical or possibly political nature.

Russia, and in particular its president Vladimir Putin, has long viewed NATO as a threat. The Kremlin has defended its war in Ukraine, in part as a means of pushing the Western alliance further back from its borders — a tactic that, given Finland’s and Sweden’s accession efforts, appears to be backfired spectacularly.

Moscow has threatened to respond with unspecified “military-technical measures” if the Nordic states make the “grave mistake” of joining NATO. The Kremlin warned that “the general level of military tensions will increase” in Europe as the alliance expands on Russia’s doorstep.

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