Anders Wicklund / AP
BRUSSELS – NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday that Finland and Sweden have officially applied to join the world’s largest military alliance, due to security concerns over Russia’s war in Ukraine.
“I warmly welcome the requests of Finland and Sweden to join NATO. You are our closest partners,” Stoltenberg told reporters after receiving their letters of request from the ambassadors of the two northern countries.
The application must now be weighed by 30 member countries. The process is expected to take about two weeks, although Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed reservations about joining Finland and Sweden.
If his objections are overcome and accession talks go as expected, they could become members in a matter of months. The process usually takes 8 to 12 months, but NATO wants to move fast, given the threat from Russia that hangs over the heads of the Nordic countries.
Canada, for example, says it expects to ratify its accession protocol in just a few days.
Public opinion in Finland and Sweden has changed significantly in favor of membership after Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February.
Finland and Sweden are NATO’s closest partners. They have a functioning democracy, well-funded armed forces and contribute to alliance military operations and air police. Any obstacles they face will be only technical or perhaps political in nature.