Brussels (AFP) – 30 NATO allies signed accession protocols for Sweden and Finland on Tuesday, sending bids for the two countries’ membership to alliance capitals for legislative approvals.
The move further increases Russia’s strategic isolation following its invasion of neighboring Ukraine in February and military conflicts there since.
“This is truly a historic moment for Finland, Sweden and NATO,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
The 30 ambassadors and permanent representatives formally approved decisions at the NATO summit last week when the alliance made the historic decision to invite Russia’s neighbor Finland and Scandinavian partner Sweden to join the military club.
Despite the agreement in the coalition, parliamentary approval in the member state of Turkey still poses problems for their eventual inclusion as members.
Last week, Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that Ankara could still derail the process if the two countries failed to fully meet Turkey’s demand to hand over suspected terrorists with links to banned Kurdish groups or the network of an exiled cleric accused of the failed 2016 coup. .
He said the Turkish parliament may refuse to ratify the deal. It is a strong threat because joining NATO must be formally approved by all 30 member states, giving each country the right to block.
Stoltenberg said he does not expect any change in the situation. There were security concerns that needed to be addressed. And we did what we always do at NATO. We have found common ground.”
Each coalition country has different legislative challenges and procedures to deal with, and it may take several months for the two to become official members.
“I am looking forward to a speedy certification process,” Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said. The Russian invasion of Ukraine gave the operation additional urgency. It would tie the two countries into a Western military alliance and give NATO more leverage, especially in the face of the military threat from Moscow.
“We will be stronger and our people will be safer because we are facing the biggest security crisis in decades,” Stoltenberg said.
Tuesday’s signing brings both countries deeper into the NATO fold already. As close partners, they actually attended some meetings which involved issues that affected them immediately. As official invitees, they can attend all ambassadors’ meetings even if they do not yet have any voting rights.