Finland and Sweden apply to join NATO
By Vatican News staff writer
Finland and Sweden have officially submitted their applications to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), an intergovernmental military alliance between 30 member states from North America and Europe.
The applications, handed over by Sweden and Finland’s ambassadors to NATO, were received by NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg at the organization's headquarters in Haren, north-east of Brussels.
Expansion of NATO alliance?
This latest decision by Finland and Sweden reflects shifting public opinion among the Nordic Member States of the European Union since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.
It could also bring about an expansion of the Western alliance that Russia had invoked as one of the reasons for the launch of their “special military operation” in Ukraine.
The Finnish Parliament voted in favour of backing the government’s proposal to apply for NATO membership on Tuesday, while Sweden’s prime, Magdalena Andersson, confirmed that a broad majority in Sweden’s parliament backed NATO membership as the best thing for the security of the country.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the move by Finland and Sweden did not threaten Moscow directly, but insisted against any expansion of military infrastructure by the alliance.
At the ceremony to receive the applications on Wednesday, Stoltenberg highlighted that “this is a good day at a critical moment for our security.” He added that “all allies agree on the importance of NATO enlargement. We all agree that we must stand together, and we all agree that this is an historic moment which we must seize.”
Experts say that the process of full accession into NATO could take up to a year as the application must now be weighed by member countries.
However, Stoltenberg said that NATO allies “are determined to work through all issues and reach rapid conclusions.”
Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed reservations about Sweden and Finland joining NATO at a news conference on Monday.
Turkey says its objections are based on Sweden and Finland’s support for members of Kurdish militant groups, and Sweden's decision in 2019 to impose arms export embargos on Turkey over its military operations in Syria.
Erdogan has also asked both countries not to bother to send delegations to Ankara to try to persuade Turkey to approve their applications.
All NATO member states must agree that a new country can join the alliance, therefore, Turkey’s support is required to further Sweden and Finland’s bid to join NATO.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomed Finland and Sweden’s bid to join NATO, noting in a tweet on Wednesday that it is an “historic day for our alliance and the world.” Canada has also said it expects to ratify the accession protocol of both countries within a few days.