Finland and Sweden formally applied to join the Nato alliance on Wednesday (May 18) at allied headquarters, setting in motion an accession process that is expected to take only a few weeks.
“The applications you have made today are an historic step. Allies will now consider the next steps on your path to Nato,” alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg said, after receiving the bids from the Finnish and Swedish ambassadors at Nato headquarters.
Ratification of all 30 allied parliaments could take up to a year, diplomats say.
Ahead of Wednesday's move, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson held a joint news conference with Finland's President Sauli Niinisto.
“I’m happy we have taken the same path and we can do it together,” Ms Andersson said.
A quick ratification of Finland’s and Sweden’s applications for Nato membership by the United States would help the whole process go faster, the Finnish president said.
“If you have a quick process there, it helps the whole process and the timetable for the whole process,” he told reporters at the news conference.
“That is very important in this context.”
Mr Niinisto and Ms Andersson are due to meet President Biden in Washington on Thursday.
Lawmakers in Finland voted overwhelmingly in favour on Tuesday of joining Nato as a deterrent against Russian aggression.
After a marathon debate lasting a day-and-a-half, 188 of 200 members of parliament voted in favour of Nato membership, a dramatic turn-around from Finland's military non-alignment policy dating back more than 75 years.
Finland, which shares a 1,300km border with Russia, has been rattled by Russia's invasion of another neighbour, Ukraine.
Finland spent more than a century as part of the Russian empire until it gained independence in 1917. It was then invaded by the Soviet Union in 1939.
Finns put up a fierce fight during the bloody Winter War, but were ultimately forced to cede a huge stretch of their eastern Karelia province in a peace treaty with Moscow.
According to public opinion polls, more than three-quarters of Finns want to join the alliance, almost three times as many as before the war in Ukraine began on Feb 24.
Sweden announced its official intention to apply for Nato membership on Monday and Foreign Minister Ann Linde signed the application letter on Tuesday.
Source: The Straits Times
BDST: 1245 HRS, MAY 18, 2022