Days after Russia’s Vladimir Putin warned Moscow would react to the NATO expansion of military infrastructure on its borders, Finland and Sweden have officially requested NATO membership.
Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary-general, said Wednesday that the alliance is ready to seize the moment and move quickly to accept Finland and Sweden.
The official applications submitted by Finland and Sweden’s ambassadors to NATO started the security clock ticking. Russia, whose war against Ukraine led them to join the military organization, has warned that it would not welcome such a move and could respond.
“I am pleased that Finland and Sweden have asked to join NATO. These two countries are among our closest partners,” Stoltenberg said. “All allies agree that NATO enlargement is crucial after Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.” We are all in agreement on the importance of standing together.
“This is an important day at a critical point in our security,” Stoltenberg said as he stood alongside the two envoys, holding the flags of NATO, Finland, and Sweden behind them.
Putin provoked Finland and Sweden.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has called on NATO to refrain from expanding toward Russia’s borders, and several NATO allies, including the United States and Britain, have indicated that they stand ready to provide security support to Finland and Sweden if the Kremlin attempts to provoke them or destabilize them during the transition.
NATO’s Article 5 security guarantee – which states that any attack on one member is considered an attack on all members – will only apply to these countries once the membership ratification process is concluded, probably in a few months.
This move has one of the biggest geopolitical ramifications because of Putin’s war on Ukraine and will rewrite Europe’s security map. In a tweet, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson stated that “Putin’s appalling ambitions have changed the geopolitical contours of our continent.”
Now their applications must be weighed by the 30 NATO member countries. That process is expected to take about two weeks. However, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed reservations regarding the accession of Finland and Sweden into NATO.
Fast Track or Membership
The two countries could become members soon if Erdogan’s objections are addressed and accession talks run smoothly. Normally, the process takes eight to 12 months, but NATO wants to fast-track the process in light of Putin’s threats to the 2 Nordic countries.
Canada, for example, has stated that its accession protocol will be ratified within the next few days, while in Estonia, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said: “I encourage a rapid accession process.” “We in Estonia will do our part as soon as possible.”
NATO allies “are determined to work through all issues and reach swift conclusions,” Stoltenberg said. Because the Nordic partners applied together, they won’t waste time ratifying each other’s membership applications.
It is a strength for Sweden and Finland to work together. “Now the process of joining the talks is underway,” Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde told Swedish news agency TT.
There is little doubt that it can win approval in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. In a joint statement issued on Wednesday, their prime ministers said they “fully endorse and warmly welcome the historic decisions” taken in Helsinki and Stockholm.
NATO to resolve all issues as quickly
However, Erdogan said that Finland and Sweden should show more respect for Turkish concerns about terrorism. As a result of their alleged support for Kurdish militants, he refused to compromise on his opposition to their membership in the alliance.
He claims that although the PKK is on the EU’s anti-terror blacklist, both countries turn a blind eye to its activities.
“You will not transfer terrorists to us, but you will ask for NATO membership. NATO is a security organization. NATO is the world’s foremost security agency. Accordingly, we cannot say ‘yes’ to denying security to this organization,” he said in an address to ruling party lawmakers.
Stoltenberg said that NATO allies “are determined to resolve all issues as quickly as possible.”
Public opinion has shifted significantly in favor of membership in Finland and Sweden since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.
Together, Finland and Sweden are close NATO allies. They maintain functioning democracies, well-funded armed forces, and participate in the alliance’s military operations. Any obstacles they face will be primarily technical or possibly political nature.
There is no formalized NATO membership process, and the steps can vary. However, their requests for membership will first be considered in a meeting of the North Atlantic Council (NAC) of the 30 member countries, probably at the ambassadorial level.