Sweden, Finland submit applications to join NATO

Sweden and Finland on Wednesday formally applied to join NATO at the military alliance’s headquarters in Brussels.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg gave a short address alongside the Swedish and Finnish ambassadors to NATO, Axel Wernhoff and Klaus Korhonen.

“I warmly welcome requests by Finland and Sweden to join NATO,” Stoltenberg said. “You are our closest partners, and your membership in NATO will increase our shared security.”

The Nordic countries’ move represents one of the most significant shakeups of Europe’s security architecture in decades.

Russia’s all-out invasion of Ukraine in February triggered a quick turnaround for the two Social Democrat prime ministers, Sweden’s Magdalena Andersson and Finland’s Sanna Marin, whose parties have long stressed neutrality and blocked joining NATO for years. Both leaders announced last week that their parties now support membership in the alliance, with their national parliaments debating the issue earlier this week.

There is already broad support for the countries’ membership, and militaries in both Finland and Sweden already cooperate closely with NATO allies. But the formal ratification of Helsinki and Stockholm’s accession is expected to take months, requiring approval from all 30 members.

In recent days, Turkey has expressed reservations about Sweden and Finland’s NATO aspirations, accusing both countries of supporting a Kurdish militant group that Ankara, the U.S. and the EU have labeled a terrorist organization. However, U.S. and NATO authorities said they are confident Ankara will not block the membership requests.

“The security interests of all allies have to be taken into account,” Stoltenberg said on Wednesday. “We are determined to work through all issues and reach rapid conclusions.”