The NATO chief said Finland and Sweden will boost Europe’s security as the two Nordic countries formally submit their bids to join the transatlantic defense alliance.
“Today is a good day at a critical time for our security,” Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday as the ambassadors of Finland and Sweden delivered their demands at a ceremony at NATO headquarters in Brussels. He added: “You are our closest partners and your NATO membership would increase our common security. »
The momentous decision by Helsinki and Stockholm to pursue alliance membership comes after the brutal invasion of Ukraine by Vladimir Putin, a non-NATO member who shares a border with Russia, has overturned decades of security thinking in the two Nordic countries.
NATO will take one to two weeks to review their applications before making official guests of the two countries, officials said. NATO’s existing 30 members would then have to ratify the requests, a process expected to take four to 12 months.
Turkey has threatened to block countries from joining the alliance, and Stoltenberg stressed that “the security interest of all allies must be taken into account”. He promised that NATO was “determined to solve all the problems and to reach rapid conclusions”.
Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson will visit US President Joe Biden on Thursday to try to win his support for a speedy ratification and try to defeat Turkish opposition.
US senators have said they hope to approve Nordic NATO bids before their recess in August. Niinistö said: “If we have a fast process there, it helps the whole process and the schedule. »
Finland and Sweden are eager for security guarantees, with the UK, Norway, Denmark and Iceland agreeing to come to their aid if they come under attack before they become NATO members and be subject to its collective defense commitment.
Stoltenberg said: “NATO is already vigilant in the Baltic Sea region and NATO and Allied forces will continue to adapt as necessary. All allies agree on the importance of NATO enlargement. We all agree that we need to stick together, and we all agree that this is a historic moment that we all need to seize.
Niinistö said during a state visit to Sweden on Tuesday that the countries had been encouraged by Putin and his Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s mild reaction to their NATO bids, with the two Russian officials appearing to suggest that Moscow would tolerate Finland and Sweden joining the alliance.
” Why? We can ask,” Niinistö said, adding, “Maybe Russia doesn’t want to tell its people that we have new problems.
Joining Finland and Sweden in the alliance would more than double NATO’s borders with Russia, but would allow it to more easily defend the three Baltic states, its most vulnerable point.
The three Baltic countries welcomed membership applications, but also stressed that NATO must agree to increase their own security at its crucial summit in Madrid in late June by sending more troops and strengthening its police mission. Aerial.