Sweden and Finland have been formally invited to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
The countries had previously operated cooperatively with NATO without formally being a part of the alliance. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, Sweden and Finland began exploring membership out of concern for national security.
“Today, we have decided to invite Finland and Sweden to become members of NATO, and agreed to sign the Accession Protocols,” read a declaration issued on June 29 by the NATO Heads of States and Government who met at a summit in Madrid.
“The accession of Finland and Sweden will make them safer, NATO stronger, and the Euro-Atlantic area more secure,” added the statement. “The security of Finland and Sweden is of direct importance to the Alliance, including during the accession process.”
Turkey had opposed the nations’ admission to the alliance because of the two nations’ more relaxed stance on Kurdish rebels who Turkey classifies as terrorists. The conflict stalled the pre-membership process for weeks.
The country lifted its objection on June 28 after reaching an agreement with Finland and Sweden.
Finland and Sweden agreed to impose more restrictions on groups deemed to be threats to national security and to work toward extraditing those charged with terrorism. The countries will not “impose embargo restrictions in the field of defense industry,” per The New York Post.
The restrictions were enacted in 2019 during a military conflict between Turkey and Syria.
“I strongly welcome the signing of this trilateral memorandum, and I strongly welcome the constructive approach all three countries have shown during the negotiations. Finnish and Swedish membership of NATO is good for Finland and Sweden, it is good for NATO,” said NATO Secretary-General Jes Stoltenberg in a statement.
The 30 current members of the alliance will now be sent the membership resolution for final approval.
During the invitations’ announcement during the Madrid Summit, President Joe Biden detailed the current status of the Russia-Ukraine war, including troop movements and equipment shipments, “to demonstrate the importance of security in the face of Moscow’s aggression,” per Republic World.
“We condemn Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine in the strongest possible terms. It gravely undermines international security and stability,” NATO’s leadership said in its statement. “It is a blatant violation of international law.”
“Russia’s appalling cruelty has caused immense human suffering and massive displacements, disproportionately affecting women and children,” the organization added. “Russia bears full responsibility for this humanitarian catastrophe.”
Finland and Sweden can only be admitted if all current members of NATO unanimously agree. The process is expected to take several years.