NATO membership bids were sent to Sweden and Finland for approval after the alliance’s 30 member states signed accession protocols for two Nordic countries.
The protocol means that Finland and Sweden can now join NATO meetings and gain greater intelligence. However, they would not be protected under the NATO defense clause, which says that an attack on one ally is an attack on all, even ratification.
“It’s really a historic moment,” said NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, along with the two countries’ foreign ministers. “With 32 countries around the table, we will be stronger.”
The annexation of Finland and Sweden is the most significant expansion of the defense alliance since the 1990s.
The signing of the protocols at NATO headquarters follows an agreement with Turkey reached at last week’s NATO summit in Madrid. Ankara lifted a possible veto on offers to join the Nordic countries after receiving assurances that both countries would do more to combat terrorism.
It may take up to a year for Finland and Sweden to get ratified.
Speaking on Tuesday, Mr. Stoltenberg urged allies to ratify quickly and reassured the two Scandinavian nations of NATO support in the meantime.
“The security of Finland and Sweden is important to our alliance, including during the certification process,” he said.
“Many allies have already made clear commitments to the security of Finland and Sweden, and NATO has strengthened our presence in the region, including through more exercises.”
After the signing, Swedish Foreign Minister Anne Linde said on Twitter: “Thank you for your support! Now the ratification process by both allies begins.”
Additional Associated Press Reports