Leaders from Finland and Sweden confirmed on Tuesday that the Scandinavian countries will jointly submit their applications for NATO membership this week and travel to Washington to meet President Biden.
“Sweden has remained our most important partner,” said President Sauli Niinisto of Finland during a performance with King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden at the Royal Palace in Stockholm. “Our security policy has long been similar and we are now taking our steps together.”
Mr Niinisto arrived in Sweden for a long-planned state visit that has taken on great symbolic significance since the two nations decided in recent days to set aside decades of strategic neutrality and seek NATO membership in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Speaking to the Swedish parliament, Mr Niinisto said Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership would strengthen the Scandinavian countries, which already “make up a strong northern quintet”.
“We are adding security to a very successful brand,” said Mr. Niinisto.
Later, during a joint press conference, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson of Sweden said: “Finland and Sweden have a long shared history. We now also have a shared future.”
Mr. Niinisto and Ms. Andersson will meet with Mr. Biden in Washington on Thursday, where they will discuss their bids for NATO membership, Russia’s war in Ukraine and “the relationship between Europe and the United States in the changed security situation.” according to a statement from the Finnish Presidency.
Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde signed her country’s application to join NATO on Tuesday morning, telling reporters: “It feels important and it feels like we have now achieved what we believe is best for Sweden. “
After the Finnish parliament voted 188 to 8 on Tuesday in favor of the country’s application to join the alliance, Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto signed the application. The vote was largely seen as a formality, but the Finnish president and government have stressed the importance of a fully democratic process given the importance of the decision.
Sweden and Finland, already working closely with NATO, are expected to submit their applications simultaneously on Wednesday at the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels. Joining NATO, a process the alliance has promised to accelerate, would provide the countries with protection under its mutual defense agreement, but the move could also be seen as a threat by Russia, with which Finland shares a more than 800-mile zone . long border.
All 30 existing NATO members would have to agree to admit them, and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed his reluctance to allow their accession, harshly criticizing Sweden as a haven for Kurdish separatists he considers considered 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’s accession to NATO.
“Turkey’s statements have rapidly changed and hardened in recent days,” he said. “But I’m sure we can resolve the situation through constructive conversations.”
Christina Anderson contributed reporting from Bastad, Sweden.