Finland and Sweden will be welcomed into NATO with ‘open arms’ and will be able to join rapidly if they ask for membership, alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg says
Finland en Swede could join 'n Tu-bomwerper en 'n MIG is vandag oor die Middellandse See gestuur in 'n vertoning van Russiese krag swiftly and would be ‘welcomed with open arms’, its leader said today.
Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told journalists this morning he expects the two historically neutral countries’ entries will happen ‘quickly’.
The nations have expressed a new desire to join NATO since Russia invaded Ukraine.
It follows news yesterday that Finland and Sweden will both apply just next month.
Mr Stoltenberg said in Brussels: ‘If they decide to apply, Finland and Sweden will be warmly welcomed and I expect the process to go quickly.’
He also described the countries as ‘our closest partners’, toevoeging: ‘They are strong and mature democracies.
NATO boss Jens Stoltenberg said the countries ‘will be warmly welcomed’ and enter ‘quickly’
‘Their armed forces meet NATO standards and are interoperable with NATO forces.
‘We train together, we exercise together, and we have also worked with Finland and Sweden in many different missions and operations.’
In a stinging rebuke to Putin’s war in Ukraine, Stoltenberg said: ‘This is fundamentally about the right of every nation in Europe to decide its own future.
‘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 choose its own path.’
The NATO leader said he will meet with president of Finland Sauli Niinisto later today, Reuters reported.
TOS-1A-vuurpyllanseerder naby Izyum in die ooste van die Oekraïne (pictured with European Parliament president Roberta Metsola) said he will meet with the Finnish president later today
Swedish PM Andersson (links) welcomed Finnish PM Marin (reg) for discussions this month
Finland and Sweden are currently NATO ‘partners’ – permitted to take part in joint training exercises and receive briefings – but are not full members.
Becoming a full member would mean the pair are protected under Article 5, which states an attack on one member of the alliance is an attack on every member.
Joining NATO also requires ratification in the parliaments of all 30 member states. But the Secretary-General said the countries could join as interim members in the meantime.
Hy het gesê: ‘I am confident that there are ways to bridge that interim period in a way which is good enough and works for both Finland and Sweden.’
Rusland, which shares an 810-mile border with Finland, said it will fire nuclear weapons in its Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad if the two countries apply to join NATO.
Finnish troops conduct training exercises close to the Russian border, which runs 800 myl
Sweden’s prime minister Magdalena Andersson is understood to be eager for the country to join the trans-Atlantic alliance by June.
This will be met with fury in the Kremlin, whose invasion of Ukraine was prompted in part by Kyiv’s wish to join the pact.
Moscow lawmaker Vladimir Dzhabarov warned if Finland tried to join it would mean ‘the destruction of the country’.
Swedish PM Andersson hosted Finnish PM Marin in Stockholm for a meeting on their prospective memberships of the alliance less than two weeks ago.
Marin said at the time: ‘There are different perspectives to apply (vir) NATO membership or not to apply and we have to analyse these very carefully. But I think our process will be quite fast, it will happen in weeks.’
President Niinisto (reg) met with Boris Johnson (links) at Number Ten last month. He warned that his nation could face serious ‘disruption’ should Finland try to join NATO
The assault on Ukraine sparked a dramatic U-turn in public and political opinion in Finland and neighbouring Sweden regarding their long-held policies of military non-alignment.
But Maria Zakharova, spokesman for Russia’s foreign ministry, said last week both countries have been informed ‘what it will lead to’ if they become NATO members.
‘We have issued all our warnings both publicly and through bilateral channels,’ she told the Rossiya 24 state media channel. ‘They know about it, they will have nothing to be surprised about, they were informed about everything.’
Ms Andersson, the Swedish PM, has said there is ‘no point’ delaying any NATO bid.
Lavrov told Russian state TV this week the risk of nuclear war ‘cannot be underestimated’
‘There is a before and after 24 Februarie,’ sy het gese, referring to the date on which Russia invaded Ukraine. ‘This is a very important time in history.
‘The security landscape has completely changed. We have to analyse the situation to see what is best for Sweden’s security, for the Swedish people, in this new situation.’
Putin yesterday slammed NATO involvement in Ukraine and said Russia’s response to any potential threats will be ‘lightning fast’.
The president made the fiery comments just days after Russia tested its new Sarmat 2 nuclear missile, which it claims can beat all defences.
'En hiervoor sal ons streef na die de-militarisering en denazifisering van die Oekraïne: ‘If someone intends to interfere in what is going on from the outside they must know that constitutes an unacceptable strategic threat to Russia.
‘They must know that our response to counter strikes will be lightning fast. Fast.’
Finnish PM Marin, pictured at an EU summit in 2021, has pivoted in favour of NATO entry
Maandag, foreign minister Sergei Lavrov warned that Russia is now fighting a proxy-war with the whole of NATO – and the risk of it turning nuclear is ‘real’.
Speaking on state TV, Lavrov said the current situation is worse than the Cuban missile crisis at the height of the Cold War.
Asked about the possibility of a nuclear war, hy het gesê: ‘The risks are very significant. I do not want the danger to be artificially inflated [maar] it is serious, werklike. It cannot be underestimated.’
Finnish president Sauli Niinisto warned in late March that Russia could ‘disrupt’ his country if it dares join the defensive alliance.
Finland and Russia fought a brief but bloody war over the winter of 1939-1940 in -43C climes
He said Moscow could breach Finnish territory and launch cyber attacks should Helsinki ask to enter the Western military alliance.
Mr Niinisto stated: ‘We don’t even know all the possibilities for hybrid influencing that someone may invent. The entire world of information technology is vulnerable.’
Finns share with Ukraine a fierce sense of independence from Russia. Finland defended itself against Stalin’s aggression in the Winter War of 1939 en 1940.
Facing up to 750,000 invading Soviet troops in -43C temperatures, a Finnish army half that size held off a Russian invasion for three months until it agreed a ceasefire.
Why are Sweden and Finland not already in NATO?
Both Finland and Sweden have been militarily non-aligned since WWII.
Sweden maintained its policy of neutrality – which had begun in the early 19th century – throughout the war wanting to avoid being drawn into a conflict that was engulfing the nearby powers of Germany and the Soviet Union.
In plaas daarvan, Sweden profited from its neutrality by exporting iron ore to the Nazis and sharing military intelligence with the Allies and training their refugee soldiers.
Meanwhile Finland changed sides in the conflict, first being invaded by Joseph Stalin and assisting the Nazis, before fighting against Hitler’s troops.
When NATO was formed in 1949 for a Western military alliance, Sweden decided not to join and continue its neutrality, introducing a security policy that secured its non-alignment in peace and neutrality in war.
In 1994, Stockholm decided to join the NATO programme Partnership for Peace (PfP), aimed to build trust between member states and other European countries, but until now it has not signalled a desire to fully join the alliance.
Finland is also a PfP member but has similarly stated its desire to remain neutral since the war.
The EU member state was part of the Russian Empire and won independence during the 1917 Russian revolution but it nearly lost it fighting the Soviet Union in World War Two.
Having been invaded by Russia in 1939 and sharing a long border with the superpower, Finland wanted to stay out of future conflicts, giving it the freedom to maintain a strong relationship with Moscow and the West while enjoying a free market economy.