‘A historic moment’: Finland and Sweden formally apply to join Nato

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Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg poses during a ceremony to mark Sweden’s and Finland’s application for membership in Brussels (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg poses during a ceremony to mark Sweden’s and Finland’s application for membership in Brussels (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Finland and Sweden formally applied to join the Nato at allied headquarters on Wednesday, a decision caused by Russia’s full-scale military invasion of Ukraine.

At a short ceremony, the Swedish and Finnish ambassadors to the alliance handed over their application letters, each in a white folder embossed with their national flag.

Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg called the joint bid: “A historic moment, which we must seize.”

He added: “I warmly welcome requests by Finland and Sweden to join Nato. You are our closest partners, and your membership in Nato will increase our shared security,” Stoltenberg said.

The alliance considers that the accession of Finland and Sweden would hugely strengthen it in the Baltic Sea.

With the applications formally submitted, the Nordic countries face months of uncertainty. Their bids would require the approval of 30 Nato members and ratification by all allied parliaments which could take up to a year, diplomats say.

Stoltenberg said on Wednesday that he thought the issues could be resolved. “We are determined to work through all issues and reach rapid conclusions,” Stoltenberg said, noting strong support from all other allies.

Determined to move the membership process along, Sweden’s defence minister has already travelled to Washington. He will be followed by Swedish prime minister Magdalena Andersson and Finnish president Sauli Niinisto later this week.

The countries hope for speedy ratification by the United States, the alliance’s premier power, will help smooth their path to membership.

The White House has said it is confident any obstacles can be overcome.

However, some countries have threatened to block the bids, including Turkey and Croatia.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused both countries of supporting Kurdish militants and imposing restrictions on military sales to Turkey.

“Neither country has an open, clear stance against terrorist organisations,” Mr Erdogan said.

Regardless, the decision to seek a place under the Nato umbrella represents a setback for Russia.

So far, Moscow’s response has been unexpectedly muted, having previously warned of steps of a “military-technical” nature and that it could deploy nuclear weapons.

President Vladimir Putin has said that Swedish and Finnish Nato membership posed no threat to Russia.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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