The bloc would welcome it “warmly” and the co-applicant Finland, NATO chief promised.
The Swedish government is expected to resolve all differences over NATO membership by the end of the week and send its application to Finland on Monday, the same day, local media reported on Thursday, citing sources. Earlier on Thursday, the Finnish leadership backed joining the US-led military bloc.
According to the Swedish newspaper Express, a series of formal meetings will end early next week at Sweden’s formal request to become a NATO ally.
The ruling Social Democrats will hold a virtual meeting later Thursday to discuss the issue. On Friday morning, the minority government and the parties that passively support parliament would have to present to the public a generally favorable view of joining the coalition, the newspaper said. Unlike Finland, there will be no direct calls for membership. This has been done to address the reservations of some people in the left and green ranks, the report said. This will be followed by a meeting of the Social Democrat leadership on Sunday
The crucial moment will come on Monday, when the parliamentary debate on this issue will be held. If the legislature approves the move, Prime Minister Magdalena Anderson will issue a formal request later in the day, sources said.
Earlier on Thursday, Finnish President Sauli Ninistটো and Prime Minister Sanaa Marin issued a joint statement in which they said they believed Finland should join NATO. The country’s parliament is expected to approve the decision on Monday, with an official request issued on the same day.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg reiterated that the US-led organization would be interested in including both countries and would speed up the accession process. All 30 current member states must approve any additions before they are completed.
“If they decide to apply, Finland and Sweden will be warmly welcomed and I hope the process will move forward quickly.” Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels that measures would be taken to protect the applicants in the interim.
A source quoted by the Russian news agency TASS as saying that NATO could offer a membership action plan (MAP) to Finland and Sweden by the end of June. The formal process usually takes several years from receiving the invitation to full participation.
However, the two countries will be considered high-priority applicants, who are already closely linked to NATO’s political and military infrastructure, so their joining will be quickly tracked, the diplomat predicted.
Sweden and Finland were both non-aligned during the Cold War, which allowed them to act as mediators between rival ideological blocs. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was followed by a drive to include them in NATO.
Moscow says NATO’s growing expansion in Ukraine is a major threat to its national security and one of the reasons for its actions in Ukraine. It warned Sweden and Finland that they would compromise rather than improve their security by joining the alliance.
Russia invaded the neighboring country in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the first Minsk agreement, signed in 2014, and the final recognition of Moscow’s Donetsk and Lugansk’s Donbas republics. The German- and French-brokerage protocols were designed to give special status to isolated territories within the Ukrainian state.
The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine formally declare itself a neutral state that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kyiv has insisted that the Russian invasion was completely unpopular and has denied claims that it is planning to forcibly retake the two republics.