Finland and Sweden have officially asked to join NATO. Here is what you need to know

Finland and Sweden have officially asked to join NATO. Here is what you need to know
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and Sweden’s Ambassador to NATO Axel Wernhoff shake hands during a ceremony to mark Sweden’s and Finland’s application for membership in Brussels, Belgium, May 18, 2022. REUTERS/Johanna Geron/Pool

Finland and Sweden officially applied to join NATO on Wednesday morning amid security concerns posed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

While both Nordic nations have remained non-aligned for more than 75 years, the ongoing war seems to have changed their minds – a historic policy shift that will redraw Europe’s security map. According to multiple reports citing diplomatic sources, Turkey blocked a vote to fast-track the process just hours after the countries applied.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly warned them against this NATO membership, saying that such a move would result in repercussions. Yet, when Finland called to inform its Russian counterpart about this on Saturday, Putin seemed surprisingly “calm and cool,” according to President Sauli Niinistö.

Key comments:

“When we look at Russia, we see a very different kind of Russia today than we saw just a few months ago," said Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin. “Everything has changed when Russia attacked Ukraine. And I personally think that we cannot trust anymore there will be a peaceful future next to Russia."

“To ensure the safety of Swedish people, the best way forward is to join NATO together with Finland,” said Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson.

“Putin stressed that the end of the traditional policy of military neutrality would be a mistake since there is no threat to Finland’s security,” the Kremlin said in a statement. “Such a change in the country’s political orientation can have a negative impact on Russian-Finnish relations developed over years in a spirit of good neighbourliness and cooperation between partners.”

“So you won’t give us back terrorists, but you ask us for Nato membership?” said Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdoğan. “Nato is an entity for security, an organization for security. Therefore, we cannot say ‘Yes’ to this security organization being deprived of security.”