Sweden Formally Asks To Join NATO As Finnish Parliament Backs Bid — Here’s What To Watch For Next
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Sweden signed a formal request to join NATO on Tuesday as Finland’s parliament voted to endorse a bid to join the alliance—Finland’s formal bid is expected later this week as the two countries break away from a long history of neutrality, but Turkey’s opposition could complicate their accession.

Key Facts

Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde signed the country’s application to join NATO one day after Sweden announced it would join Finland in launching a bid to join the alliance.

“It feels like we have taken a decision that is the best for Sweden,” the Associated Press quoted Linde as saying after signing the document.

Finland’s parliament also endorsed the Finnish president and Finnish prime minister’s support for joining NATO in a 188-8 vote approving Finland to seek membership.

While Parliament wasn’t required to vote, Finland’s president and prime minister said it was important for lawmakers to weigh in, and Finland is now expected to formally sign its own request to join the alliance in the coming days.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has repeatedly said all NATO members would “warmly welcome” the two countries with, but Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced he was opposed to the two countries joining last week.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto addressed Sweden’s parliament on Tuesday, and said he was “sure” Finland and Sweden could reach an agreement with Turkey through “constructive talks.”

Key Background

Erdogan doubled down on his opposition against Finland and Sweden joining the alliance on Monday. Last week, he said that Turkey does not “hold positive views” because of Finland and Sweden’s support for Kurdish militants and others that Turkey considers to be terrorist organizations. Finland and Sweden, along with some Western allies, have offered continued support to the Kurdish people and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, while Turkey has been fighting against armed Kurdish groups for decades. If Turkey remains opposed, it could single-handedly block Finland and Sweden’s accession to the alliance, as all 30 NATO countries have to unanimously approve new members.

Chief Critic

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday Sweden and Finland joining NATO would “certainly provoke our response,” and told Niinisto during a phone call on Saturday joining the alliance would be “wrong” and have a negative effect on Russian-Finnish relations. Russia has previously warned it may deploy nuclear weapons to the Baltics if Finland and Sweden join NATO. Russia shut off electricity to Finland over the weekend, citing issues receiving payments due to sanctions, though some Finnish energy leaders questioned the reason for the cut off.

Crucial Quote

“We took peace for granted – on February 24 the peace was broken,” Niinisto said in his address to the Swedish parliament, referencing the date Russia invaded Ukraine. “Our old ways of handling things no longer correspond to the new situation. Our relations with Russia have changed.” Finland, which declared independence from Russia in 1917, shares an 810-mile border with the country. Russia invaded Finland in 1939 and sparked a year-long war that ended with Finland ceding 11% of its territory to Russia.

What To Watch For

President Joe Biden will host Niinisto and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson at the White House Thursday to discuss their NATO applications and European security, according to White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

Further Reading

Sweden Officially Announces NATO Bid — After Putin Ominously Warns Of Russian ‘Response’ If It Joins Alongside Finland (Forbes)

Putin Warns Finland Over Joining NATO As Russia Cuts Off Electricity (Forbes)

Turkey Opposes Finland And Sweden Joining NATO, Erdogan Says (Forbes)

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