NATO chief hails ‘historic moment’ as Finland and Sweden apply
BRUSSELS – NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday the military alliance was ready to seize a historic moment and act quickly to allow Finland and Sweden to join its ranks, after the two countries have submitted their membership applications.
The official candidacies, handed over by the ambassadors of Finland and Sweden to NATO, put a security tick-tock. Russia, whose war with Ukraine prompted him to join the military organization, has warned that it would not welcome such a move and may react.
“I warmly welcome Finland’s and Sweden’s applications for NATO membership. You are our closest partners,” Stoltenberg said. “All allies agree on the importance of NATO enlargement. We all agree that we must stand together, and we all agree that this is a historic moment that we must seize.
“It’s a good day at a critical time for our security,” Stoltenberg said, beaming, as he stood alongside the two envoys, with the flags of NATO, Finland and Sweden in the back.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has demanded that the alliance stop expanding towards Russia’s borders, and several NATO allies, led by the United States and Britain, have signaled they are ready. to provide security support to Finland and Sweden if he tried to provoke or destabilize them. the time it takes to become a full member.
Countries will only benefit from NATO’s Article 5 security guarantee – the part of the alliance’s founding treaty which promises that any attack on one member would be considered an attack on all – once the ratification process of accession concluded, probably within a few months.
This decision is one of the biggest geopolitical ramifications of the war and will rewrite the security map of Europe. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomed it in a tweet and said “Putin’s appalling ambitions have transformed the geopolitical contours of our continent”.
For now, however, the bid has to be weighed by the 30 member countries. This process is expected to take around two weeks, although Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed reservations about Finland and Sweden joining.
If his objections are overcome and membership talks go as planned, the two could soon become members. The process usually takes eight to 12 months, but NATO wants to act quickly given the Russian threat hanging over the Nordic countries.
Canada, for example, says it expects to ratify its accession protocol in just days – while in the Baltic region, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas tweeted: “I encourage a process of rapid adhesion. In Estonia, we will do our part quickly.
Stoltenberg said NATO allies “are committed to resolving all issues and reaching rapid conclusions.”
The fact that the Nordic partners applied together means they won’t waste time having to ratify each other’s membership application.
“That Sweden and Finland go hand in hand is a strength. Now the process of participating in the talks continues,” Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde told Swedish news agency TT.
It should soon be approved in the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Their prime ministers issued a joint statement on Wednesday saying they “fully endorse and warmly welcome the historic decisions” taken in Helsinki and Stockholm.
Public opinion in Finland and Sweden has shifted massively in favor of membership since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.
Finland and Sweden cooperate closely with NATO. They have functioning democracies, well-funded armed forces, and contribute to alliance military operations and air policing. The obstacles they will face will simply be of a technical or even political nature.
The NATO membership process is not formalized and the steps may vary. But first, their membership applications will be considered at a session of the North Atlantic Council (NAC) of the 30 member countries, likely at ambassadorial level.
The NAC will decide if they wish to become a member and what steps need to be taken to achieve this. This depends mainly on the degree to which candidate countries align with NATO’s political, military and legal standards, and their contribution to security in the North Atlantic region. This should not pose a substantial problem for Finland and Sweden.
In future accession talks, which could be concluded in a single day once the terms of these negotiations are set, both parties will be asked to commit to article 5 and meet spending obligations. for NATO’s internal budget, which is approximately $2.5 billion, divided proportionally among what would be 32 member countries.
Finland and Sweden would also be informed of their role in NATO defense planning and any other legal or security obligations they may have, such as vetting personnel and handling classified information.
Jari Tanner in Helsinki and Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen contributed to this report.
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