NATO formally invites Finland and Sweden to join the alliance
Wednesday, 29 June, 2022, 19:36
NATO formalized its invitation to Sweden and Finland to join its alliance Wednesday, a historic expansion of the defense bloc that directly undercuts Russian President Vladimir Putin's aims as his war in Ukraine grinds ahead. The group collectively decided to approve countries' applications to join after Turkey dropped its objections Tuesday, paving the way for NATO's most consequential enlargement in decades. "The accession of Finland and Sweden will make them safer, NATO stronger, and the Euro-Atlantic area more secure. The security of Finland and Sweden is of direct importance to the Alliance, including during the accession process," the statement said. The decision will now go to the 30 member states' parliaments and legislatures for final ratification. NATO's leaders said they expected the process to move quickly, allowing for an unprecedentedly swift accession and a show of unity against Putin. The leaders entered Wednesday's talks propelled by a diplomatic victory after Turkey dropped its objections to the two nations joining NATO, setting the stage for the two longtime neutral countries to enter the defensive bloc. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg called the formal invitation from the alliance to Sweden and Finland to join the defense bloc a "historic decision." "The agreement concluded last night by Turkey, Finland and Sweden paved the way for this decision," the secretary general said in a news conference. He recounted how two rounds of talks were held by senior officials in Brussels under his auspices in the advance of Monday's consequential meeting between Finnish President Sauli Niinistö, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Turkey agreed on Tuesday to drop its objections to their membership bids, removing a major hurdle to them joining NATO. The expansion vote, paired with substantial new commitments bolstering NATO's force posture in Europe, combined to make this week's summit in Madrid one of the most productive in recent memory. The outcome is exactly what Putin was hoping to fend off when he invaded Ukraine more than four months ago. "I said Putin's looking for the Finlandization of Europe. He's going to get the NATOization of Europe. And that is exactly what he didn't want, but exactly what needs to be done to guarantee security for Europe. And I think it's necessary," US President Joe Biden said when he arrived at the summit site in Madrid.