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NATO formally invites Finland and Sweden to become members, moving closer ending their historic neutrality and defying Putin

NATO’s secretary general along with the leaders and foreign ministers of Turkey, Finland, and Sweden in Madrid, Spain, on June 28, 2022.

AP Photo/Bernat Armangu

  • NATO formally invited Sweden and Finland to join the western military alliance.
  • It comes after an agreement was formed so Turkey would drop its objections to their membership.
  • There is much to be done before either nation can fully join, but the progress is a blow for Putin.

NATO has formally invited Sweden and Finland to join NATO, in a blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

NATO said in a Wednesday statement: “Today, we have decided to invite Finland and Sweden to become members of NATO, and agreed to sign the Accession Protocols.”

The two countries made significant progress in joining the western military alliance on Tuesday, as Turkey dropped its objections to their membership and NATO announced that the three countries signed an agreement to let the membership process proceed.

But there are more steps that need to happen before they can be members. Indeed, NATO Secretary General Jen Stoltenberg called the agreement one “that paves the way for Finland and Sweden to join NATO.”

Countries that seek to join NATO are typically invited to start talks with the bloc about any reforms they need to make, and they are then invited to join the “Membership Action Plan,” which NATO describes as “a programme which helps nations prepare for possible future membership.”

The parliaments of all of NATO’s current members then need to approve the countries’ joining.

Stoltenberg on Tuesday said he was “absolutely confident” the two nations would become members.

Stoltenberg has also previously offered to try and speed up their membership efforts, which means some of the steps that countries normally go through may be hurried.

It is not clear if, for example, recent talks between NATO and the two nations about their joining may cover the necessary pre-membership talks NATO normally has with candidate countries.

Tuesday’s agreement was a major step in the membership efforts of Sweden and Finland.

Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Pekka Haavistod, and Ann Linde — the foreign ministers of Turkey, Finland and Sweden respectively — signed the agreement on Tuesday.

Two countries need the unanimous support of all of NATO’s current members to be able to join the alliance.

Turkey had held out on supporting their membership, accusing the countries of supporting Kurdish militias.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in a statement: “Turkey has made significant gains in the fight against terrorist organisations” and that “Turkey got what it wanted” by the signing of the joint security pact on Tuesday.

NATO’s secretary general said that both Sweden and Finland agreed to drop their restrictions on selling Turkey weapons and that Sweden agreed to increase work to extradite suspected militants to Turkey. 

Sweden and Finland moved away from decades of neutrality to pursue NATO membership after Russia invaded Ukraine. They both first applied to join in May.

The possible growth and apparent strengthening of NATO is the opposite of what Putin wanted.

He has tried to justify his invasion of Ukraine by arguing that he was reacting to the possibility of NATO expanding eastwards, but instead he has prompted attempts at such an expansion.

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