Finland and Sweden submit NATO membership applications

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The move comes despite Russia’s concerns that NATO enlargement would have destabilising consequences for security in Europe. The applications will now be weighed by the 30 member countries. (Reuters) NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says that Finland and Sweden have officially applied to join the military alliance, a move driven by security concerns over Russia's offensive in Ukraine. 

«I warmly welcome the requests by Finland and Sweden to join NATO. You are our closest partners», Stoltenberg told reporters on Wednesday after receiving their application letters from the two Nordic countries' ambassadors.

Calling the move a «historic step» in the alliance’s history, Stoltenberg stressed that Sweden and Finland are NATO’s «closest partners» and their membership «will increase our shared security.»

Stoltenberg said NATO allies «are determined to work through all issues and reach rapid conclusions» on the membership process.

He also confirmed that NATO has already raised vigilance in the Baltic Sea region, and its forces will «continue to adapt as necessary.»

READ MORE: Erdogan: Türkiye does not favour Finland, Sweden joining NATO for now

Move could provoke Russia's response

NATO ambassadors are expected to discuss the applications on Wednesday and could give the green light on opening formal talks with the pair on their bids.

The process usually takes eight to 12 months.

The move comes despite Russia's concerns that NATO enlargement would have destabilising consequences for security in Europe.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday Moscow «does not have a problem» with Sweden or Finland, but that «the expansion of military infrastructure onto this territory will certainly provoke our response.»

Türkiye, a longstanding NATO member, has also voiced its objections to Finland and Sweden’s membership bids, criticising the two Nordic countries for tolerating and even supporting terror groups such as PKK/YPG.

In order for a country to join NATO, unanimous approval is required, which equals the approval of all 30 existing allied countries.

READ MORE: Why Türkiye opposes Sweden and Finland's NATO bid

Source: TRTWorld and agencies