Sweden, Finland confirm bid for NATO membership

Sweden and Finland have confirmed they will apply for North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) membership in a historic shift that comes as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In Sweden, the governing Social Democrats said they backed joining the security alliance, paving the way for the country to apply.

The announcement came soon after Finland too formally announced it would apply to join the grouping.

Russia sees NATO as a security threat and has warned of “consequences”.

Sweden stayed neutral in World War II and for more than two centuries has avoided joining military alliances.

Finland shares a 1 300-km (810-mile) border with Russia. Until now, it has stayed out of NATO to avoid antagonising its eastern neighbour.

In a statement, Sweden’s Social Democrats said they would “work toward” membership, something supported by the public and most opposition parties. A formal application is likely within days.

But the Social Democrats added that they were opposed to stationing nuclear weapons or hosting NATO bases.

At a subsequent press conference, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said her party believed joining the alliance was “best for Sweden’s and the Swedish people’s security”.

“For us Social Democrats, it is clear that the military non-alignment has served Sweden well, but our conclusion is that it won’t serve us as well in the future,” she added.

She also said Sweden would be left in a “vulnerable position” if it was the only country in the Baltic region that was not a NATO member.

Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto earlier confirmed his country would apply, calling it a “historic day”.

He spoke to Russia’s President Vladmir Putin about the decision, saying he wanted to “say it straight”.

“I, or Finland, are not known to sneak around and quietly disappear behind a corner,” he said.

Russia’s president had previously told Finland it would be a “mistake” to join NATO. (BBC)

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