The United States will welcome Helsinki and Stockholm into the NATO alliance with open arms, Washington’s top diplomat told lawmakers. Russia has warned of steep consequences should the Western military bloc further expand to 32 members.
During a House committee hearing on Thursday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said both Finland and Sweden have a “very strong interest” to join NATO in light of Russia’s attack on Ukraine, noting that Washington would adhere to the alliance’s ‘open-door’ policy for new members.
“We, of course, look to them to make that decision. If that’s what they decide, we will strongly support it,” he said.
Though Blinken could give no timeline for when the two Nordic states might join, he said the subject is “under very active consideration by both countries” and that a formal decision could be made ahead of a NATO summit planned for Madrid this summer.
Stockholm appears prepared to move forward with a membership application, with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson declaring on Friday that the government would not hold a referendum on the issue. A majority of the legislature backs NATO membership, while recent opinion polls indicate growing support among the Swedish public.
In an interview with the Irish Times published Wednesday, Finland’s Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said most lawmakers strongly support joining the alliance, even in the event Sweden decides against it.
“Currently I think the mood in parliament, if you look at the majority of MPs supporting the decision, is that yes, it includes the possibility to go without Sweden,” the FM said. “It would be good to do the same things at the same time as Sweden, but that depends on Swedish decisions. It is too early to guess the date but I think before the summer we are proceeding.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has repeatedly said both countries could be rapidly admitted into the alliance should they apply, stating on Thursday that he expects the process “to go quickly.”
Finland’s entrance into the military bloc would expand the Russia-NATO border by over 800 miles. Moscow has vocally opposed that prospect – as well as all eastward expansion of the alliance – even threatening to deploy nuclear and hypersonic weapons to the Baltic region in response to restore military “balance.”