WASHINGTON (AN) — Sweden and Finland are expected to decide by the middle of May whether to seek to join NATO. While both countries have long remained neutral, polls show public opinion shifting toward membership in the military alliance since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Formal entry into NATO would require a vote by all 30 members of the organization, a process that could take up to a year, but NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says he thinks membership for the two nations could come soon.
“And it's their decision, but if they decide to apply, Finland and Sweden will be warmly welcomed and expect the process to go quickly,” he said recently in Brussels.
Russian President Vladimir Putin firmly opposes any move by the two nations to join NATO and has warned of “serious consequences.”
“This is fundamentally about the right of every nation in Europe to decide its own future,” Stoltenberg said. “So when Russia tries in a way to threaten, to intimidate Finland and Sweden from not applying, it just demonstrates how Russia is not respecting the basic right of every nation to chose its own path.”
He says he’s confident that an interim security arrangement for the two Nordic nations can be worked out until the formal ratification is finalized.
Article 5 of NATO’s founding treaty declares that an attack against any member of the alliance is an attack against all members and they will come to the aid of the ally under attack.
Finland and Russia share a roughly north-south border some 1,340 kilometers (830 miles) long. And both Finland and Sweden face Russia across the Baltic Sea. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said this week that if the two nations decide they want to join NATO, they can count on Germany’s support.
Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said her government was carrying out a security analysis to be presented on May 13. The analysis covers future international defense partnerships including possible NATO membership. “All options are on the table,” she said.
Pope Francis, in an interview with the Italian newspaper Courier della Sera, appeared to lay some of the blame for the war on NATO, saying “this barking of NATO at Russia’s door” may have prompted Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
He said he has offered to travel to Moscow to meet with Putin to try to end the war.