Sweden Takes First Step For NATO Membership

Sweden on Tuesday took the first formal step to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization with its Foreign Minister Ann Linde signing an application declaring the country’s intention to join the defense alliance.

This move by Stockholm marks a major shift in its decades of military neutrality, evidently influenced by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“It feels very big, very serious, and it feels like we have arrived at a conclusion which is the best for Sweden,” Linde said after signing an application for NATO membership at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Stockholm.

“We don’t know how long it will take, but we calculate that it could take up to a year,” she told reporters.

She said Sweden, together with Finland, will submit the application in a day or so for processing by NATO.

Although the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and NATO Secretary General Jens Stolltenberg voiced strong support for Finland and Sweden’s intention to join the alliance, Turkey’s stand remains the biggest hurdle for these Nordic nations.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan says he will not approve Finland and Sweden’s bids as he won’t agree to admit countries which apply sanctions on Turkey.

Also, both the countries have rejected Ankara’s requests to extradite Kurdish militants who Turkey describes as terrorists.

Application for NATO membership requires approval by all the countries of the 30-member bloc.

Finland acceding to NATO is a big booster for the alliance as it has a well-equipped, sophisticated military and shares 1340 kilometer border with Russia.

After the NATO Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Berlin on Sunday, Secretary General Jens Stolltenberg said that Sweden and Finland are NATO’s closest partners and if they decide to apply for membership, it would be “historic.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the two countries’ entry into the US-led alliance will not create a threat to Russia, but military expansion into the territory will “certainly cause our response.”

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