Finland and Sweden have officially applied for membership in the NATO military alliance, inspired by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg made the announcement at the coalition’s headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday, after the ambassadors of the two countries received their formal applications.
“It’s a good day at a critical moment for our safety,” Stoltenberg said. “All allies agree on the importance of expanding NATO. We all agree that we must stand together. And we all agree that this is a historic moment that we must seize.
Finland’s parliament voted overwhelmingly to join NATO by a vote of 188-to-8 on Wednesday ahead of Stoltenberg’s announcement.
Finland and Sweden’s applications mark a historic departure from their decades-long neutrality dating back to the time of the Cold War. But Moscow’s decision to invade neighboring Ukraine on February 24 sparked fear in both countries, especially in Finland, which shares a long border with Russia.
All 30 NATO member states are expected to consider applications expeditiously, a process that typically takes up to a year.
But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has objected to the Baltic neighbors joining the coalition, accusing them of providing safe haven to “terrorists” and imposing sanctions on Turkey.
Russian President Vladimir Putin warned the West that Moscow would respond if NATO strengthens its military presence in Finland and Sweden, as the two Nordic countries announced on Sunday they wanted to join the US-dominated Western military alliance. Huh.
US President Joe Biden will offer his personal support during a meeting with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Finnish President Souli Niinisto at the White House on Thursday.