NATO’s 30 allies signed an accession protocol for Finland and Sweden on Tuesday, which will take the two Nordic countries one step closer to membership.
It will allow them to join the Nuclear Alliance when the Allied parliaments ratify the decision, the most significant enlargement of NATO since the mid-1990s.
The move increases Russia’s isolation since its invasion of neighboring Ukraine in February and the ensuing conflict.
The protocol means that Helsinki and Stockholm can participate in NATO meetings and have greater access to intelligence, but they will not be protected by NATO’s defense clause that an attack on an ally is an attack on everyone, until ratification is likely to reach a year.
The 30 ambassadors and permanent representatives formally approved the decisions of last week’s NATO summit, when the alliance made the historic decision to invite the two countries to join the military pact.
“This is truly a historic moment,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg with the two countries’ foreign ministers. “With 32 nations around the table, we will be even stronger.”
NATO’s 30 ambassadors and Stoltenberg together posed for a photo in which the Swedish and Finnish foreign ministers held up their signed protocols, before breaking out in applause.
“Thank you for your support! Now begins the process of ratification of each of the allies,” said Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde on Twitter. “Look forward to working together to ensure our collective security,” she said.
Despite the agreement in the alliance, a parliamentary approval in the member state of Turkey can still pose problems for their final inclusion as members.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan warned on Thursday at the Madrid summit that Finland and Sweden must first keep the promises made to Turkey in an agreement, otherwise ratification will not be sent to the Turkish parliament.
Historic NATO summit – in pictures
After weeks of diplomacy, Erdogan and his Finnish and Swedish counterparts agreed on a series of security measures to enable the two Nordic countries to overcome the Turkish veto that Ankara introduced in May due to its concerns about terrorism.
But he warned that Ankara could still block the trial if the two countries do not fully meet Turkey’s demands to extradite terror suspects with links to banned Kurdish groups or the network of an exile priest accused of a failed coup in Turkey in 2016.
According to the signed memorandum, Finland and Sweden promised not to support the Kurdish militant PKK and YPG groups or the network of the US-based priest Fethullah Gulen, who according to Ankara arranged a coup attempt in 2016 and which they stamp a terrorist organization with the abbreviation FETO.
Mr Stoltenberg said he did not expect any change. “There were security issues that needed to be addressed. And we did as we always do at NATO. We found a common ground.”
Each alliance nation has different legislative challenges and procedures to deal with, and it can take several months for the two to become official members.
“I look forward to a speedy ratification process,” said Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has made the process extra urgent. It will consolidate the two nations in the Western military alliance and give NATO more influence, especially in the face of Moscow’s military threats.
Tuesday’s signing for both nations is already deeper into NATO’s trap. As close partners, they have already participated in some meetings that dealt with issues that directly affected them. As invited guests, they can attend all meetings of the ambassadors, even if they do not yet have the right to vote.
Updated: 5 July 2022, 10:09