Finland and Sweden formally applied to join the NATO alliance on Wednesday in a dramatic move that marks one of the biggest strategic consequences of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The decision by the two Nordic countries, which were both neutral throughout the Cold War, marks a “historic moment,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said.
“I warmly welcome the requests by Finland and Sweden to join NATO. You are our closest partners,” he added.
On Monday, Sweden confirmed it intends to apply for NATO membership, joining neighboring Finland.
“There is a broad majority in Sweden’s parliament for Sweden to join NATO,” the prime minister, Magdalena Andersson, said on Monday. “This is the best thing for Sweden’s security. We will inform NATO that we want to become a member of the alliance.”
On Sunday, the Finnish government confirmed its intention to join NATO.
Turkey threatens to veto the accession of Finland, Sweden to NATO
The application will now be weighed by the thirty member countries. Without the support of all NATO members, Sweden and Finland cannot join the military alliance.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has stated his opposition to Finland and Sweden joining NATO—just hours after they said they would seek membership.
He said the two Nordic nations should not bother sending delegations to convince Turkey, a key NATO member, of their bids.
He is angered by what he sees as their willingness to host Kurdish militants. At a news conference on Monday, Erdogan said Turkey opposed the Finnish and the Swedish bids to join NATO, describing Sweden as a “hatchery” for terrorist organizations.
“Neither of these countries have a clear, open attitude towards terrorist organizations. How can we trust them?” the Turkish President said.
Turkey accuses the two Nordic nations of harboring members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a group it views as a terrorist organization, and followers of Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara accuses of orchestrating a 2016 coup attempt.
Russia is furious with the decision by Sweden, Finland to join NATO
The decision by the two governments, both of which have remained neutral or non-aligned since the end of the second world war, drew a critical initial response from Russia, which described it as a serious mistake with far-reaching consequences.
“The situation is, of course, changing radically in light of what is happening,” Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, said on Monday. “The fact that Finland and Sweden’s security will not be strengthened as a result of this is very clear to us.”