Tuesday, March 21, 2023

NATO chief hails ‘historic moment’ as Finland, Sweden apply

BRUSSELS ( Associated Press) – NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday that the military alliance is ready to seize a historic moment and allow Finland and Sweden to join their ranks, after both countries submitted membership requests. .

Official applications submitted to NATO by the ambassadors of Finland and Sweden made the security clock tick. Russia, whose war on Ukraine prompted them to join the military organization, has warned that it would not welcome such a move, and may retaliate.

“I warmly welcome the requests of Finland and Sweden to join NATO. You are our closest partner,” 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 take.

“It’s a good day at a crucial moment for our security,” said Stoltenberg, with a smile, as he stood with two envoys with NATO, Finnish and Swedish flags at their backs.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has demanded that the coalition stop moving toward Russia’s borders, and several NATO allies, led by the United States and Britain, have indicated they are ready to provide security assistance to Finland and Sweden. if he tries to provoke or destabilize them. During the time it takes to become a full member.

Countries would only benefit from NATO’s Article 5 security guarantees – part of the coalition’s founding treaty that pledges that any attack on one member would be considered an attack on all of them – once the membership ratification process is over, perhaps in a few months.

For now though, 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 and Sweden joining.

If his objections are addressed, and accession talks go as well as expected, the two could become members within a few months. This process usually takes eight to 12 months, but NATO wants to move quickly, given the threat looming over the Nordic countries from Russia.

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

Stoltenberg said NATO allies are “determined to work through all issues and reach conclusions swiftly.”

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

Finland and Sweden cooperate closely with NATO. They have functioning democracies, well-funded armed forces and contribute to coalition military operations and aerial policing. Any obstacle they face would be merely technical or possibly political in nature.

NATO’s membership process is not formal, and steps can vary. But their requests to join will first be examined at a meeting of the North Atlantic Council (NAC) of 30 member states, possibly at the ambassadorial level.

The NAC will decide whether to move towards membership or not and the steps to be taken to achieve it. It mostly depends on how well the candidate countries meet NATO’s political, military and legal standards, and whether they contribute to security in the North Atlantic region. This should not cause any major problems for Finland and Sweden.

Going forward, during accession negotiations, which can end in just one day, once the terms of those negotiations have been determined, both must maintain Article 5 and meet spending obligations related to NATO’s internal budget. , which runs to about $2.5 billion, which would be divided proportionately among the 32 member states.

Finland and Sweden will also be made aware of their role in the NATO defense plan and of any other legal or security obligations they may have, such as personnel checks and handling of classified information.


Follow Associated Press’s coverage of the war https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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