NATO chief says Finland, Sweden can join very quickly 2022-04-28 07:23:07

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NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Finland and Sweden would be adopted with open arms if they decided to join the 30-nation military organization and could become members very quickly.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday that Finland and Sweden would embrace with open arms if they decided to join the 30-nation military organization and could become members very quickly.

“It’s their decision,” Stoltenberg said. “But if they do decide to move forward, Finland and Sweden will be given a warm welcome, and I expect that process will go quickly.”

He didn’t mention a specific timeframe, but said the two could expect some protection if Russia tried to intimidate them from the time they applied for membership until they formally joined.

Stoltenberg said he was “confident that there are ways to get through that transition in a way that is good enough and works for the benefit of both Finland and Sweden.”

NATO’s collective security ensures that all member states must assist any ally under attack. Stoltenberg added that several NATO allies have now pledged at least $8 billion in military support to Ukraine.

Before launching the war in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded that NATO stop expansion and withdraw its forces from Russia’s borders. So Moscow is unlikely to welcome the prospect of Finland and Sweden joining the transatlantic alliance.

Finland has a history of conflict with Russia, with which it shares a border of 1,340 kilometers (830 miles). The Finns participated in dozens of wars against their eastern neighbor, for centuries as part of the Kingdom of Sweden, and as an independent country, including two that fought with the Soviet Union from 1939 to 1940 and from 1941 to 1944.

However, in the post-war period, Finland sought pragmatic political and economic relations with Moscow, remaining militarily unaligned and a neutral buffer between East and West.

Sweden has avoided military alliances for more than 200 years, choosing the path of peace after centuries of war with its neighbours.

Both countries put an end to traditional neutrality by joining the European Union in 1995 and deepening cooperation with NATO. However, the majority of people in both countries have remained against full membership in the alliance – until now.

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Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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