Nato poised to sign off accession protocols for Finland and Sweden

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Members of the NATO enhanced Forward Presence battlegroup German troops (REUTERS)
Members of the NATO enhanced Forward Presence battlegroup German troops (REUTERS)

Nato is poised to formalise the accession of Sweden and Finland after 30 members of the military alliance signed off on membership plans for the Nordic countries.

Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg hailed a “historic moment” for both nations as their membership bids were sent to alliance capitals for legislative approval.

Sweden and Finland announced plans to join Nato in May following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Their decision to shift from a previous position of neutrality is expected to significantly alter the architecture of security in northern Europe and comes as a blow to Vladimir Putin, who has baselessly claimed the expansion of the alliance represents a threat to Russia.

Despite the agreement in the alliance, parliamentary approval in member state Turkey could still pose problems for their final inclusion as members.

Last week, Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Ankara could still block the process if the two countries fail to fully meet Turkey’s demand to extradite terror suspects with links to outlawed Kurdish groups.

He said Turkey’s parliament could refuse to ratify the deal if the demands were not met.

Accession must be approved by all 30 members of the military alliance for it to go ahead.

But Mr Stoltenberg said he did not expect Ankara to block the move at the last minute.

He said: “There were security concerns that needed to be addressed. And we did what we always do at NATO. We found common ground.

“We will be even stronger and our people will be even safer as we face the biggest security crisis in decades.”

According to a signed memorandum, Finland and Sweden pledged not to support the Kurdish militant PKK and YPG groups or the network of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen which Ankara labels a terrorist organisation.

Sweden and Finland’s accession comes despite threats from Moscow of retaliation.

On March 12, Russia’s foreign ministry warned of “serious military and political consequences” if the Nordic countries joined the alliance.

Last month, Nato announced a vast expansion of its instant response force.

More than 300,000 troops will be put on high readiness from 2023 to counter the threat of Russian aggression.

The move replaces the Nato response force which was for years the first to respond to any Russian attack or other crisis.

Nato is also in the process of setting up four more multinational battalions in Hungary, Bulgaria, Slovenia and Romania, with around 1,000 troops each.

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