Finland, Sweden apply to join NATO

Finland, Sweden apply to join NATO

Finland and Sweden applied to join the NATO alliance on Wednesday at allied headquarters, a decision spurred by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and setting in motion an accession process that is expected to take only a few weeks.

Sweden and Finland were neutral throughout the Cold War, and their decision to join NATO is one of the most significant changes in Europe's security architecture over the past few decades, reflecting a shift in public opinion in the Nordic region since Russia's Feb. 24 invasion.

This is a historic moment, which we must seize," said Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO Secretary-General of the alliance, at a short ceremony in which Swedish and Finnish ambassadors to the alliance handed over their application letters, each in a white folder embossed with their national flag.

I warmly welcome requests from Finland and Sweden to join NATO. Stoltenberg said that you are our closest partners, and your membership in NATO will increase our shared security. The alliance considers that the accession of Sweden and Finland would strengthen it in the Baltic Sea.

The ratification of all 30 allied parliaments could take up to a year, diplomats say.

Turkey has been surprised by its allies by saying it has reservations about Finnish and Swedish membership. Stoltenberg said on Wednesday that he thought the issues could be resolved.

Stoltenberg said that we are determined to work through all issues and reach rapid conclusions, and that is why we have strong support from all other allies.