Finland and Sweden formally applied to join the NATO alliance, a decision spurred by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but face objections from Turkey to an accession process that is expected to take only a few weeks.
Neutral throughout the Cold War, Sweden’s and Finland’s decision to join NATO is one of the most significant changes in Europe’s security architecture in decades, not least because Finland shares a 1,300-km (810-mile) border with Russia.
It also reflects a shift in public opinion in the Nordic region since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.
“I warmly welcome requests by Finland and Sweden to join NATO. You are our closest partners, and your membership in NATO will increase our shared security,” Stoltenberg said. The alliance believes the accession of Finland and Sweden will hugely strengthen it in the Baltic Sea.
With the applications formally submitted, the Nordic countries and their many backers now face uncertain months where any resistance to their bids must be overcome, with all 30 of NATO’s members needing to approve the enlargement.
Turkish state broadcaster TRT Haber reported this week that Sweden and Finland had not granted approval for the repatriation of 33 people that Turkey requested and President Tayyip Erdogan doubled down on criticism on Wednesday.
Editing by Marian, Omotola Oguneye