Finland and Sweden formally submit bids to join NATO military alliance | News | DW
Finland and Sweden applied to join NATO on Wednesday, despite Turkey’s threat to block Nordic nations from joining.
Finland – which shares a 1,300 kilometer (800 mile) border with Russia – and neighboring Sweden have been unsettled by Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
“I warmly welcome the applications from Finland and Sweden to join NATO. You are our closest partners,” NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg told reporters after receiving the applications. .
What does the auction mean?
Both countries’ bids to join the alliance as a defense against feared Russian aggression would end decades of military neutrality.
The accession protocols of the two countries could be signed as early as June, followed by ratification procedures in the Member States. Finland and Sweden could become NATO members by the end of the year. The process usually takes up to a year.
“I am happy that we have walked the same path and that we can do it together,” Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said on Tuesday during a joint press conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto.
Russian President Vladimir Putin warned on Monday that NATO enlargement could trigger a response.
On Monday, Putin said that while Finland and Sweden joining NATO pose “no direct threat” to Russia, “the expansion of military infrastructure in these territories will certainly provoke our response.”
However, the main obstacle to Finland and Sweden joining comes from within the alliance.
Turkey says Sweden and Finland have provided refuge for Kurdish groups it calls “terrorists”, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insists Ankara will not approve of the expansion.
Erdogan reiterated his objections on Wednesday, during a speech to his party’s lawmakers, saying ‘we cannot say yes’ to Finland and Sweden’s candidacy until they sack ‘terrorists’ in Turkey.
He also expected Turkey’s NATO allies to “understand our concerns” and “support us”.
Any offer to join NATO must be approved by all 30 members of the alliance.
Several other members of the alliance have already pledged to support an expedited application process. Canada said it expected to ratify the candidacies of the two potential members in just a few days.
Why did Finland and Sweden apply to join NATO?
Historically, the two countries have maintained a form of diplomatic neutrality between NATO and the then Soviet Union.
As democracies with well-funded armies, they eventually became NATO’s closest partners, but there was little public support for joining the alliance.
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, however, public opinion has changed course, reaching around 60% in favor of NATO in Sweden and 75% in Finland. This has led the ruling social democratic parties in both countries, traditionally wary of NATO, to lead the charge in launching the bid.
Due to the 1,300 kilometer border between Finland and Russia, joining NATO would greatly extend NATO’s proximity to Russian territory.
ab, rc/kb (AFP, dpa, AP, Reuters)