The leaders of Finland and Sweden confirmed on Tuesday that the Nordic countries will jointly submit their applications for NATO membership this week and will travel to Washington to meet with President Biden.
“Sweden has continued to be our most important partner,” Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said during a meeting with Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf at the royal palace in Stockholm. “Our security policies have been similar for a long time and now we are taking our steps together.”
Mr. Niinisto arrived in Sweden for a long-scheduled state visit that has gained great symbolic importance since the two countries recently decided to put aside decades of strategic neutrality and seek NATO membership in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In his address to the Swedish Parliament, Mr. Niinisto said that Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership would support the Scandinavian countries, which “already form a strong northern quintet”.
“We add security to a very successful brand,” said Mr. Niinisto.
Later at a joint press conference, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said: “Finland and Sweden have a long joint history. Now we have a common future too.
Mr. Niinisto and Ms. Andersson will meet jointly with Mr. Biden in Washington on Thursday, where they will discuss their bid for NATO membership, Russia’s war in Ukraine, and the “relationship between Europe and the United States in a changing security situation.” According to a statement from the Finnish presidency.
Sweden’s foreign minister, Ann Linde, signed her country’s application to join NATO on Tuesday morning, telling reporters: “This is very important and we seem to have achieved what we think is best for Sweden.”
Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto signed the application Tuesday, after the Finnish Parliament voted 8 to 188 in favor of the country’s application to join the alliance. The vote was largely seen as a formality, but the Finnish president and government stressed the importance of a full democratic process given the importance of the decision.
Sweden and Finland, which are already in close cooperation with NATO, are also expected to submit their applications to the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday. Joining NATO, a process the alliance has pledged to accelerate, would give countries protection under a mutual defense agreement, but the move could also be considered a threat by Russia, of which Finland has a stake of more than 800 miles. long border.
All 30 existing NATO members will have to accept them, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has signaled his reluctance to allow them to join, voicing his harsh criticism of Sweden’s being seen as a haven for Kurdish separatists he sees as terrorists.
Mr Niinisto said he was surprised by Mr Erdogan’s comments because when the two leaders spoke a few weeks ago, the Turkish leader did not oppose Finland joining NATO.
Turkey’s statements have changed and hardened rapidly in recent days. But I am confident that with the help of constructive talks we can resolve the situation.”
Christina Anderson Bastad contributed reporting from Sweden.