Boris Johnson hails ‘historic day’ as Finland and Sweden officially apply to join Nato in rebuff to Putin

·2 min read
Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and Sweden's Ambassador to Nato Axel Wernhoff shake hands during a ceremony to mark application for membership  (REUTERS)
Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and Sweden's Ambassador to Nato Axel Wernhoff shake hands during a ceremony to mark application for membership (REUTERS)

Boris Johnson hailed a “historic day” on Wednesday as Finland and Sweden officially applied to join Nato in a major rebuff to Vladimir Putin.

The Prime Minister stressed the move by the two Nordic countries showed that the Russian president’s “appalling ambitions have transformed the geopolitical contours” of Europe.

He emphasised that he hopes the two countries would be accepted within the western military alliance “very soon”.

His remarks came just hours after Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg confirmed the two Nordic countries had put in formal applications, in moves driven by security concerns over the Russia president’s war in Ukraine.

“I warmly welcome the requests by Finland and Sweden to join Nato. You are our closest partners,” Mr Stoltenberg said after receiving their application letters from their ambassadors.

The two Nordic countries joining Nato is a blow to Mr Putin as it is further evidence that his invasion of Ukraine has backfired as he sought to justify it to stop the country becoming a member of the western military alliance and posing a threat to Russia.

Mr Johnson tweeted: “This is an historic day for our alliance & the world. Not long ago nobody would have predicted this step, but Putin’s appalling ambitions have transformed the geopolitical contours of our continent. I look forward to welcoming Finland & Sweden into the @NATO family very soon.”

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov insisted that Finland and Sweden joining Nato would probably make “not much difference” as the two countries had long participated in the alliance’s military drills.

The applications by the two countries to become members of Nato must now be weighed by the 30 member countries.

That process is expected to take about two weeks, although Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed reservations about Finland and Sweden joining.

If his objections are overcome, and accession talks go as well as expected, the two could become members within a few months.

The process usually takes eight to 12 months, but Nato wants to move quickly given the threat from Russia hanging over the Nordic countries’ heads.

America has said it expects the Turkish reservations to be overcome and many countries are ready to act quickly.

Canada, for example, says that it expects to ratify their accession protocol in just a few days.

Public opinion in Finland and Sweden has shifted massively in favour of membership since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

Finland and Sweden are Nato’s closest partners. They have functioning democracies, well-funded armed forces and contribute to the alliance’s military operations and air policing.

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