Finland and Sweden will hand in their NATO applications on Wednesday, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said during a joint news conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö.
Here's why that matters:
- Finland and Sweden are poised to end decades of neutrality by joining NATO, the US-led security alliance.
- The two Nordic nations had long kept the military alliance at an arm’s length.
- But Moscow’s assault on Ukraine has sparked renewed security concern across the region.
- The ambassadors of Finland and Sweden will meet NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesday.
- Andersson and Niinistö will then meet US President Joe Biden on Thursday.
Will their bids to join succeed?
- Finland’s application to join NATO requires a vote in parliament, but given the support of the ruling government, that hurdle is expected to be passed.
- In Sweden, the move was debated in parliament on Monday and there is broad support for joining NATO, but the government does not need the consent of lawmakers to move ahead.
- The announcements have been met with support from leaders in almost all NATO nations.
- However, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday he would not approve the membership over sanctions on Ankara and accused both countries of housing Kurdish "terrorist organizations."
- Any European country can request to join NATO, so long as they meet certain criteria and all existing members agree.
- NATO diplomats told Reuters that ratification of new members could take a year, as the legislatures of all 30 current members must approve new applicants.
- Both Finland and Sweden already meet many of the requirements for membership.
- They include having a functioning democratic political system based on a market economy; treating minority populations fairly; committing to resolve conflicts peacefully; the ability and willingness to make a military contribution to NATO operations; and committing to democratic civil-military relations and institutions.
How has Russia reacted?
- Moscow has warned of “far-reaching consequences” if the move goes ahead.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday that Finland and Sweden’s NATO entry would not create a threat but the “expansion of military infrastructure into this territory will certainly cause our response.”
- The Russian Foreign Ministry has said it "will be forced to take retaliatory steps, both of a military-technical and other nature, in order to stop the threats to its national security."
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