Following their respective governments' historic pronouncements on Sunday (May 15) that they will seek membership in the military alliance in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Finland and Sweden are on their way to becoming the newest members of NATO.
The motion will be debated in the Finnish Parliament on Monday, but with a majority of parliamentarians in favor and unprecedented public backing, a formal application for Nato membership appears to be a formality at this point.
A day after alerting his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin of the plan, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto announced the bid to media in the presidential palace in Helsinki, causing Mr Putin to warn that bilateral ties would be harmed.
“This is a historic day. A new era begins,” Finland President Sauli Niinisto, 73, said at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Sanna Marin, 36, on Sunday as he announced his country’s application for membership.
Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, 55, said her Social Democrats had ditched 200 years of non-alignment by bidding to join NATO.
She announced on Monday that the government would advise NATO of Sweden's desire to join the alliance, committing to one of Europe's most significant geopolitical upheavals since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
"The Russian invasion of Ukraine has deteriorated the security situation for Sweden and Europe," said Sweden's Foreign Minister Ann Linde, 60.
The applications will be dealt with shortly following a NATO conference in Madrid next month, according to Annalena Baerbock, the German Foreign Minister who is hosting the talks. She stated, "They should be able to join fast." "There must not be a time of transition, a grey zone, in which their position is uncertain."
Allies will provide "security assurances" to discourage Russia from attempting to coerce countries before their membership applications are completed, according to Mr Stoltenberg. Across the Baltic Sea, Sweden and Finland face Russia. Finland shares a 1335-kilometer border with Russia.
This places these countries, which have strong intelligence collection and air force capabilities, in the frontline of a new northern flank, alongside Norway, a founding NATO member.
Mr Putin is enraged by the membership applications because his military will be strained even further while the situation in Ukraine continues. Finland's electrical supply has been shut off by Russia.
Moscow has threatened to place nuclear weapons in its exclave of Kaliningrad, which lies between Poland and Lithuania, if the two nations join NATO.
On Friday, Mr Niinisto said he spoke with Mr Putin in a "calm and collected" manner. He told CNN, "He confirmed that he feels it's a mistake." "What we see now is a more fragmented Europe and world. There isn't much place for non-aligned in the middle."
Turkey's criticism of Finland and Sweden's unwillingness to condemn "terrorists," a reference to the Kurdish separatist PKK and YPG groups, was downplayed by the alliance. Since 1984, the organizations have been fighting Turkey in an insurgency that has killed tens of thousands of lives.
Mr Stoltenberg stated, "Turkey has made it clear that it does not intend to impede membership." "I am optimistic that we will be able to handle Turkey's concerns in a way that does not cause a delay in membership."
In exchange for pledges that both nations will condemn Kurdish terrorism and lift limits on military transfers to Turkey, Ankara is anticipated to approve the membership applications.
Turkey is also seeking concessions from Washington, according to alliance diplomats, following a dispute over its purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defense system in 2017. Mr Niinisto stated that he was "willing to have a new conversation with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan about the issues he has mentioned."
On Monday, Finland's parliament was to meet to discuss the membership proposal. "In the following days, we expect the parliament will confirm the decision to apply for NATO membership." Ms Marin stated, "It will be built on a solid mandate."
After Ms Marin's Social Democratic Party announced its support for joining on Saturday, a large majority of Finnish MPs backed the move. "Hopefully, we'll be able to send our applications jointly with Sweden next week," she remarked on Saturday.
On Sunday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Berlin and expressed confidence that a deal would be struck. He explained, "This is a process." "And NATO is a meeting place."