BRUSSELS – The Swedish and Finnish ambassadors handed over their NATO membership application letters in a ceremony at the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels.
Finland, which shares a 1,300-kilometre border with Russia, and Sweden were both militarily non-aligned throughout the Cold War, and their decision to join the alliance represents the biggest change in European security for decades.
It will more than double the alliance’s land border with Russia and give NATO control over nearly the entire coast of the Baltic Sea.
“This is a historic moment which we must seize,” NATO secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg said.
Turkey surprised its allies in recent days by saying it will block the Nordic members’ accession unless they do more to crack down on Kurdish militants on their territory.
Stoltenberg said he thought the issue could be overcome, and Washington also said it expects it to be resolved.
After weeks in which Russia threatened retaliation against the plans, Putin appeared to abruptly climb down this week, saying in a speech on Monday that Russia had “no problems” with either Finland or Sweden, and their NATO membership will not be an issue unless the alliance sent more troops or weapons there.