US officials say Finland and Sweden are poised to apply for membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. NATO is prepared to grant the two Nordic states rapid entrance into the alliance, a move Russia views as “geared towards confrontation.”
A US official told the Times that membership for Sweden and Finland was “a topic of conversation and multiple sessions” during NATO meetings last week. Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says the military bloc is prepared to fast-track Helsinki and Stockholm into the alliance.
Sweden’s ruling Social Democratic party has traditionally opposed membership, but the party is now revising its security platform in light of Moscow’s military operations against its neighbor. “When Russia invaded Ukraine, Sweden’s security position changed fundamentally,” a statement released on Monday said.
Finland expects to apply for NATO membership in the coming weeks. Former Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stub said it was “a foregone conclusion” that Helsinki will make its bid to join by this summer.
US officials see Finland submitting its application in June, with Sweden expected to follow soon after. Secretary-General Stoltenberg has previously said that Helsinki and Stockholm would be “very much welcomed by all 30 allies,” even suggesting their membership could be expedited.
Over the weekend, NATO announced that it would engage in a massive military buildup along its border with Russia, with Stoltenberg saying the alliance is making plans to deploy enough forces in all states neighboring Russia to repel a potential invasion.
Finnish membership would expand the Russia-NATO border by over 800 miles, a prospect vocally opposed by Moscow. Responding to the Times report on Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov argued that the continued eastward growth of the alliance “will not bring stability to the European continent,” instead calling it “a tool geared towards confrontation.”