Two people standing and signing documents

“This is a good day at a critical moment for our security.”

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg after Finland and Sweden submit NATO applications. The two countries already are NATO's closest partners, but their membership would establish further security in Europe.

Published on

may 18, 2022

NATO
  • Why It Matters: Finland and Sweden have applied to join NATO — the world's largest military alliance. Their membership would significantly redraw security lines in Europe and nearly double the alliance's eastern border with Russia.
  • Background: What is NATO? The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is an alliance created in 1949 by the U.S., Canada, and several Western European countries in the aftermath of WWII — in part to provide security against the Soviet Union.
  • Finland has remained militarily non-aligned largely because of its shared 830-mile border with Russia; it hasn't wanted to create further conflict. “This is a watershed moment in Finnish history ... It is the first formal military alliance in Finnish history," said Matti Pesu, an expert on Northern European security and leading researcher at the Finnish Institute for International Affairs in Helsinki.
  • Until now, Sweden had not applied to join NATO because it desired to stay neutral. However, Ann Linde, Sweden’s foreign affairs minister, said on Twitter that "the Russian invasion of Ukraine has deteriorated the security situation for Sweden and Europe as a whole."
  • Finland and Sweden have handed over their NATO applications but the confirmation process is expected to take months. It first requires unanimous approval from the other 30 NATO members; Turkey's president has expressed concerns about the two Nordic countries joining.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin recently said he did not have an issue with Finland’s and Sweden’s decision to join NATO, as long as NATO bases and weapons are not stationed in the Nordic countries. Russia had cited NATO's growing presence, in part, as a reason for invading Ukraine.

Finland, Sweden submit NATO membership application (Associated Press)

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