Sweden and Finland are a step closer on Wednesday to formally applying for NATO membership and abandoning neutrality despite warnings from Russia that the move would destabilize Europe.
Finland Prime Minister Sanna Marin and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson have been meeting in Stockholm to discuss regional security matters in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
At a joint press conference afterwards, Marin said she could not give a timetable for a decision on whether Finland would join NATO but nonetheless said the decision was weeks, not months, away. Andersson said Sweden would not rush a decision, but the country’s assessment of the security situation would be thorough but expedient.
Finland’s parliament will hear from a range of security experts in the weeks ahead as the country moves towards a decision “before midsummer,” Marin has said.
All 30 members of NATO must approve Finland and Sweden joining
All 30 members of NATO would need to ratify the country’s membership which could take anywhere from a few months to a year. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said the door for membership remains open.
While many analysts expect a joint application from the two countries, the leaders of both countries stress Finland and Sweden could ultimately reach separate conclusions on whether to join the military alliance.
Finland shares a 1,340-kilometer (830-mile) border with Russia. During the Cold War, the country was formally neutral to prevent Russia from invading.
Sweden does not share a border with Russia, but the strategic island of Gottland in the Baltic Sea could make Sweden vulnerable should a conflict erupt in the region.
Russia warns Nordic countries to stay out of NATO
Russia has warned Finland and Sweden against joining NATO, arguing the move would not bring stability to Europe.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that “the alliance remains a tool geared towards confrontation.”
Peskov warned the bloc “is not that kind of alliance which ensures peace and stability, and its further expansion will not bring additional security to the European continent.”
Last week Peskov said that Russia would have to “rebalance the situation” with its own measures were Sweden and Finland to join NATO.
I,n February Maria Zakharova, Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman, warned of “military and political consequences” if the countries joined the bloc.