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Finland and Sweden formally apply for NATO membership


BRUSSELS –

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday that Finland and Sweden had formally applied to join the world’s largest military alliance, a move prompted by security concerns over Russia’s war in Ukraine. .

“I warmly welcome Finland’s and Sweden’s applications for NATO membership. You are our closest partners,” Stoltenberg told reporters after receiving the letters of application from the ambassadors of the two Nordic countries. “It’s a good day at a critical time for our safety.”

The bid now has to be weighed by the 30 member countries. This process is expected to take around two weeks, although Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed reservations about Finland and Sweden joining.

If his objections are overcome and membership talks go as planned, the two could become members within months. The process usually takes eight to 12 months, but NATO wants to act quickly given the Russian threat hanging over the Nordic countries.

Canada, for example, says it expects to ratify its accession protocol in just a few days.

Stoltenberg said NATO allies “are committed to resolving all issues and reaching rapid conclusions.”

“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 that we must seize,” he told reporters. , at NATO Headquarters in Brussels.

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

Finland and Sweden cooperate closely with NATO. They have functioning democracies, well-funded armed forces, and contribute to alliance military operations and air policing. The obstacles they will face will simply be of a technical or even political nature.

The NATO membership process is not formalized and the steps may vary. But first, their membership applications will be considered at a session of the North Atlantic Council (NAC) of the 30 member countries, likely at ambassadorial level.

The NAC will decide if they wish to become a member and what steps need to be taken to achieve this. This depends mainly on the degree to which candidate countries align with NATO’s political, military and legal standards, and their contribution to security in the North Atlantic region. This should not pose a substantial problem for Finland and Sweden.

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