Sweden and Finland have officially applied for NATO membership. Ambassadors from the two countries handed over the relevant documents to Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesday morning at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels.
“This is a historic moment that we must seize,” Stoltenberg said at a brief ceremony at the western military alliance’s headquarters, where the Swedish and Finnish ambassadors presented the membership applications.
“I very much welcome Finland’s and Sweden’s applications to join NATO. They are our closest partners and their membership in NATO will increase our common security,” said Stoltenberg. In view of the Russian war against Ukraine, the two northern European countries recently decided to abandon their military neutrality and join NATO.
Finland’s Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto signed his country’s NATO membership application on Tuesday. The Finnish parliament had previously voted overwhelmingly in favor of Finland’s application to join NATO.
After a two-day debate, 188 MPs voted in favor of membership in the defense alliance on Tuesday, 8 voted against. This finally paved the way for a Finnish application for NATO membership.
Haavisto’s Swedish counterpart, Ann Linde, signed her country’s membership application on Tuesday morning. “Our NATO application is now officially signed,” Linde wrote on Twitter. All 30 NATO member states must agree to Finland and Sweden joining.
The two countries, which decided to apply for membership in the military alliance under the impression of the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine, wanted to submit their membership applications together.
Russia downplayed the consequences of the Nordic countries joining NATO. “Finland, Sweden and other neutral countries have been taking part in NATO military exercises for many years, and NATO takes their territory into account in the military planning of eastward movements,” said Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. “So in that sense, there probably isn’t much of a difference.”
Russia will monitor the situation and then draw conclusions. The Kremlin had previously accused the West of waging a diplomatic, economic and political war against Russia.
The Swedish government made the final decision on the NATO membership application on Monday. “It feels big, it feels serious, it feels like we’ve ended up doing what we think is best for Sweden,” Linde said on Tuesday.
Sweden’s King Carl XVI. On Tuesday, Gustaf stressed his country’s intention to join NATO “simultaneously and in agreement with Finland”. “This is a historic step that we are taking side by side with our brother country,” he said at a press conference with Finnish President Niinistö in Stockholm on Tuesday. Niinistö had previously arrived in the Swedish capital for a two-day state visit.
The challenges posed by Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine meant “opportunities for consensus and deeper cooperation to stand together even more,” the monarch said. Niinistö added: “Our security policy line has been a similar one for a long time. And even now, when the situation requires it, we are taking our steps together.”
Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz praised Finland and Sweden’s applications for NATO membership as a “historic step for the defense alliance and for Europe”. With this step, Finland and Sweden would exercise the right to choose their alliance freely, Scholz said. “Germany will work to ensure that the accession process proceeds very quickly.”
US President Joe Biden plans to receive Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Finnish President Niinistö at the White House on Thursday. White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said on Tuesday that they wanted to talk about Sweden’s and Finland’s NATO bids at the meeting in the US capital, Washington.