NATO chief says Finland, Sweden may join too soon

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says Finland and Sweden will be embraced with open arms if they decide to join the 30-nation military organization and can become members very quickly.

BRUSSELS — NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday that Finland and Sweden would be embraced with open arms if they decide to join the 30-nation military organization and could become members very quickly.

“It’s their decision,” Stoltenberg said. “But if they decide to apply, Finland and Sweden will be warmly welcomed, and I hope that the process goes quickly.”

He did not give an exact time frame, but said the two could expect some security when Russia tries to intimidate them from the time their membership applications are made until formally joining.

Stoltenberg said he “believes there are ways to bridge that interim period in a way that is good enough and works for both Finland and Sweden.”

NATO’s Collective Security Guarantee ensures that all member states come to the aid of any ally under attack. Stoltenberg said several NATO allies have now pledged at least $8 billion in military aid to Ukraine.

Before starting the war in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded that NATO expansion stop and withdraw its troops from Russia’s borders. So the prospect of neighboring Finland and Sweden joining the Trans-Atlantic Alliance is unlikely to be welcomed in Moscow.

Finland has a conflict-ridden history with Russia, with which it shares a 1,340-kilometre (830 mi) border. The Finns have participated in dozens of wars against their eastern neighbor over the centuries as part of the Swedish Empire, and as an independent nation fought two wars with the Soviet Union from 1939–40 and 1941–44.

However, in the post-war period, Finland pursued pragmatic political and economic ties with Moscow, remaining militarily non-aligned and a neutral buffer between East and West.

Sweden has avoided military alliances with its neighbors for more than 200 years, choosing the path of peace after centuries of war.

The two countries ended traditional neutrality in 1995 by joining the European Union and deepening cooperation with NATO. However, most people in both countries have so far been against full membership in the alliance.


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