The process of ratifying Sweden and Finland as the newest NATO members formally began on Tuesday, said the head of the military alliance, Jens Stoltenberg, who marks a historic step as a result of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
“This is a good day for Finland and Sweden and a good day for NATO,” Stoltenberg told reporters in a joint press release with the Swedish and Finnish foreign ministers.
“With 32 nations around the table, we will be even stronger and our people will be even more secure as we face the biggest security crisis in decades,” he added.
The Secretary General of NATO spoke at a meeting where the ambassadors from NATO’s 30 member countries were expected to sign the accession protocols for the two Nordic countries, which opens a month-long period for the alliance countries to ratify their membership.
“We are extremely grateful for all the strong support that our accession has received from the Allies,” said Sweden’s Foreign Minister Ann Linde.
“We are convinced that our membership would strengthen NATO and increase stability in the Euro-Atlantic area,” she added.
In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, Sweden and Finland announced in parallel their intention to abolish their military freedom of alliance and become part of NATO.
A NATO summit in Madrid last week approved the move by issuing invitations to the two, after Turkey won concessions over concerns it had raised and a US promise to accept new warplanes.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had accused Sweden and Finland of being a haven for Kurdish militants he has tried to crush, and of promoting “terrorism”.
He also demanded that they lift the arms embargo imposed for Turkey’s military invasion of Syria in 2019.
But Erdogan has held on to the rest of NATO by saying that he can still block Sweden’s and Finland’s bids if they fail to fulfill their promises, some of which were secret, such as possible extradition agreements.