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Sweden, Finland another step closer to NATO membership

During a ceremony in Brussels, NATO ambassadors today signed the accession protocols that will move Finland and Sweden a step closer to joining the alliance.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said it was a historic day “for Finland, for Sweden, for NATO and for Euro-Atlantic security.”

The accession protocols now move to the alliance’s 30 member nations for national ratification according to the procedures of the various nations. In the United States, this means the Senate will have to approve the addition of those countries to the Washington Treaty of 1949.

For decades, Sweden and Finland were content to work with NATO, but not become members of the defensive alliance. But Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine in February shifted the ground in Europe, and those nations — both historically neutral — petitioned to join NATO. At last week’s NATO summit in Madrid, allied leaders agreed to invite Finland and Sweden to join the alliance.

Aircraft from Germany, Finland, Sweden and the United States fly in formation above the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge during BALTOPS 22 in the Baltic Sea, Jun. 6, 2022. The exercise, led by U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa and executed by Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO, trains forces to strengthen combined response capabilities critical to preserving freedom of navigation and security in the Baltic Sea. (Navy photograph by PO3 Jesse Schwab)

“Finland and Sweden will make strong and important contributions to our alliance,” Stoltenberg said after the ceremony.

He noted that years of training and exercising together has increased the interoperability of Finnish and Swedish forces with NATO, and the nations share the same values as the other members of the alliance.

“I commend all allies for moving so quickly in accepting Finland and Sweden’s applications for membership, and I want to thank Turkey, Finland and Sweden for their constructive approach,” the secretary general said. “The trilateral agreement they signed at the Madrid summit made today possible.”

Finland shares a long border with Russia, and Sweden is just across the Baltic Sea from Russia. There are concerns about actions Russian President Vladimir Putin may take against the nations. “The security of Finland and Sweden is important for our alliance, including during the ratification process,” Stoltenberg said. “Many allies have already made clear commitments to Finland and Sweden’s security, and NATO has increased our presence in the region, including with more exercises.”

The signing of the document means Finland and Sweden will have the status as “invitees” and will participate in alliance discussions.

Sweden has a world-class military and will contribute to the security of all NATO allies. “We are convinced that our membership will strengthen NATO and add to the stability in the Euro-Atlantic area,” said Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde. “We will do our part in contributing to NATO’s collective defense shoulder-to-shoulder with the other allies.”

Linde said the decision to join NATO has enormous support in her country, “and we believe that joining NATO is the best way for Sweden to ensure our national security and keep the Swedish people safe.”

Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said his country looks forward to working closely with the other NATO allies. “The membership of both Finland and Sweden will not only contribute to their own security, but to the collective security of the alliance,” he said.

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