BRUSSELS — The 30 NATO allies on Tuesday signed Sweden and Finland’s accession protocols, sending the two countries’ offers of membership to alliance capitals for legislative approval.
The move further reinforces Russia’s strategic isolation following its invasion of neighboring Ukraine in February and the military struggles that have unfolded there since.
“This is truly a historic moment for Finland, for Sweden and for NATO,” said the alliance’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg.
The 30 ambassadors and permanent representatives formally endorsed the decisions of NATO’s summit last week when the alliance took the historic decision to invite Russia’s neighbor Finland and Scandinavian partner Sweden to join the military club.
Despite the agreement within the alliance, parliamentary approval in the Turkish member state could still pose problems for their final inclusion as members.
Last week, Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that Ankara could still block the process if the two countries did not fully comply with Turkey’s request to extradite terrorist suspects with links to banned Kurdish groups or the network of an exiled cleric accused of a failed 2016 coup in Turkey.
He said the Turkish parliament may refuse to ratify the deal. This is a powerful threat since NATO membership must be formally approved by all 30 member states, giving everyone a right to block.
Stoltenberg said he expected no change of heart. “There were security issues that needed to be addressed. And we did what we always do in NATO. We have found common ground. »
Each nation in the alliance has different legislative challenges and procedures to deal with, and it could take several more months for both to become official members.
“I look forward to a speedy ratification process,” Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said. The Russian invasion of Ukraine gave the process added urgency. It will bring the two nations into the Western military alliance and give NATO more clout, especially in the face of the military threat from Moscow.
“We will be even stronger and our people will be even safer as we face the greatest security crisis in decades,” Stoltenberg said.
Tuesday’s signing already brings the two nations deeper into the NATO fold. As close partners, they have already attended some meetings on issues that have immediately affected them. As official guests, they can attend all ambassador meetings even if they do not yet have the right to vote.