NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced on Wednesday at the Alliance’s headquarters in Brussels, flanked by ambassadors from both countries after receiving their formal application letter.
“This is a good day at a critical moment for our security,” Stoltenberg said. “All allies agree on the importance of NATO enlargement. We all agree that we must stand together. And we all agree that this is a historic moment that we must seize.”
The Finnish parliament voted overwhelmingly to join NATO earlier on Wednesday before Stoltenberg’s announcement with a vote of 188 to 8.
The applications of Finland and Sweden mark a historical deviation from their decades-long attitude of neutrality that goes back to the Cold War. But Moscow’s decision to invade neighboring Ukraine on February 24 raised concerns in both countries, especially in Finland, which shares a long border with Russia.
All 30 NATO member nations are expected to consider applications quickly, a process that typically takes up to a year.
But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed reservations about the Baltic neighbors joining the alliance, accusing them of giving “terrorists” refuge and imposing sanctions on Turkey.
Russian President Vladimir Putin warned the West that Moscow would respond if NATO strengthened its military presence in Finland and Sweden after the two Nordic countries declared on Sunday that they wanted to join the US-dominated Western military alliance.