Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg hails move by Nordic neighbours as ‘historic step’
Sweden and Finland have formally submitted their applications to join the Nato military alliance, confirming a radical redrawing of Europe’s security landscape triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Nato secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, accepted the Nordic neighbours’ membership applications, each in a white folder embossed with their national flag, at the headquarters of the US-led defensive alliance in Brussels.
“I warmly welcome the requests by Finland and Sweden to join Nato. You are our closest partners,” Stoltenberg told the two countries’ ambassadors, hailing the occasion as “a historic step” and “a good day at a critical time for our safety”.
Nato ambassadors are expected to discuss the applications on Wednesday and could give the green light to opening formal talks with the pair on their requests, but Turkey has raised objections that could delay or even derail the process.
All 30 Nato members need to approve the enlargement, which must then be ratified by their parliaments, taking up to a year. The alliance has said it wants to move as fast as possible given the potential Russian threat over Finland and Sweden’s heads.
“The security interests of all allies have to be taken into account and we are determined to work through all issues and reach rapid conclusions,” Stoltenberg said. “All allies agree on the importance of Nato enlargement. We all agree that we must stand together and we all agree that this is an historic moment which we must seize.”
Ankara has said its objections are rooted in what it describes as Sweden and Finland’s support for members of Kurdish militant groups, and their decisions in 2019 to impose arms export embargos on Ankara over Turkey’s military operations in Syria.