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Allies approve Finland, Sweden NATO bid, offer security: report


In the wider Nordic region, Norway, Denmark and the three Baltic states are already members of NATO.

Brussels:

NATO allies expect Finland and Sweden to apply to join the alliance in the coming days and grant membership quickly, five diplomats and officials said, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine forces a radical rethinking of European security .

During the one-year ratification of their membership, the allies will provide a larger troop presence in the Nordic region, hold more military exercises and naval patrols in the Baltic Sea, and possibly rotate American and British forces through Finland and Sweden, they said.

Finland and Sweden will not benefit from NATO’s collective defense clause – that an attack on one ally is an attack on all – until the parliaments of all 30 member states have ratified the decision.

In the wider Nordic region, Norway, Denmark and the three Baltic states are already members of NATO.

President Sauli Niinisto of Finland, who shares a 1,300 km (810 miles) border with Russia, will announce his position on Thursday, a move that will be seen as official confirmation of Helsinki’s decision to join.

Sweden’s ruling Social Democrats are expected to decide on Sunday whether to overturn decades of opposition to NATO membership. Sweden’s parliament is holding a parallel review of all security policy parties due to report on Friday.

“Yes and yes: they will apply and membership will be granted to them,” said one senior diplomat, on condition of anonymity, on how the two Nordic nations would act.

“BLESSED MOMENT”

“If not now, when?” said a second diplomat, referring not only to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, but also to the fact that Moscow had to drop so many troops in its southern neighbor as part of its “special operation” to disarm it.

A third NATO diplomat agreed: “This is a blessed moment. Russia is not in a position to attack (the Nordic nations).”

However, envoys said Moscow could announce that it was moving missiles and other weapons and armor closer to its border with Finland.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Wednesday declined to comment on Russia’s possible response.

“Of course, we observe everything related to actions that are capable of somehow changing the configuration of the alliance near our borders in the most attentive way,” he said. “This is a topic for very, very careful analysis. For now, we can say no more.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who visited Sweden and Finland on Wednesday, said he had agreed new agreements with both nations to strengthen European security, and promised support for their armed forces should they come under attack.

Johnson also reiterated that NATO is a defensive alliance that does not threaten other countries.

Russia strongly disagrees and views NATO enlargement as a direct threat to its own security. It cited the issue as a reason for his actions in Ukraine, which also strives to one day join the alliance.

Sweden recently sought US reassurance that Washington would step up its security in the event of Russian retaliation. The US mission to NATO declined to comment directly.

“We are confident that we can find ways to address any concerns that any country may have about the period between a NATO membership application and their potential accession to the Alliance,” said Jeff Adler, spokesman for the US mission at NATO. , said.

Alliance diplomats and officials said that Sweden’s and Finland’s membership offer would be approved for sure, either at or before a planned NATO summit in Madrid on 28-30 June.

“There is no exact timeline. We will not wait for the Madrid summit if it can be approved earlier,” a NATO official said.

Some diplomats expected Finland and Sweden to apply for membership a few weeks before the Madrid summit to allow approval at the summit, which will be attended by all allied leaders, including US President Joe Biden.

It would be full of symbolism for NATO. It was at an allied summit in Madrid in 1997 that Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic were invited to join, in the first of several waves of NATO’s eastern enlargement.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by techlives staff and is being published from a syndicated stream.)

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