Belgium, (Brussels Morning Newspaper) Finland and Sweden have submitted formal applications to join the NATO on Wednesday in response to the war in Ukraine.
The two Nordic EU member states were neutral in the Cold War and their applications reflect the change of sentiment following Russia’s attack on Ukraine, according to Reuters reporting on Wednesday.
“This is a historic moment which we must seize,” noted Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General of NATO, at the ceremony with Finnish and Swedish representatives.
According to diplomats, it could take up to one year for all 30 NATO members to ratify the applications.
Earlier this month, Turkey expressed concerns about planned expansion of the alliance and called on the two aspiring members to stop supporting terrorists on their territories and lift restrictions on arms sales to Turkey.
Stoltenberg expressed belief that NATO members will overcome these issues and reach consensus with Ankara.
Washington announced that US President Joe Biden will hold a meeting with Finnish and Swedish leaders on Thursday to talk about their applications.
Commenting on the planned NATO expansion on Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin pointed out that Moscow does not object to Finland or Sweden joining NATO, but would take issue with increased NATO military presence there.
Putin previously warned against allowing Finland and Sweden to join the alliance.
Stoltenberg stated that “all allies agree on the importance of NATO enlargement” and welcomed the two countries’ applications to join.
“This is a good day at a critical moment for our security,” he stressed and pointed out that Finland and Sweden are NATO’s closest partners.
If Turkey’s objections are overcome, the two Nordic countries could join the NATO in a few months, according to AP reporting.
While the process usually takes roughly one year, NATO pointed out that it wants to speed up ratification. Canada and Estonia announced they would ratify the applications soon.
The North Atlantic Council, NATO’s decision-making body, is to discuss the applications and decide on the steps needed to wrap up the process.
Since Finland and Sweden cooperate with NATO, take part in joint military operations and have well-funded armed forces, any obstacles to NATO membership will be political or technical.