After nearly two centuries of neutrality and then of military non-alignment, “we are leaving an era to enter a new one”, underlined the Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson during a press conference.
Stockholm expects to be a member within a year at most, she said as NATO tries to calm last-minute hostility displayed by Turkey.
The unanimity and the parliamentary ratification of the thirty current members of the alliance is necessary to bring in a new member.
The prospect of a Swedish-Finnish entry into NATO “does not constitute an immediate threat”, reacted Monday Vladimir Putin, after several declarations expressing the irritation of Moscow these last days.
But Russia would react to deployments of “military infrastructure” in the two Nordic countries, warned the Russian president.
The Swedish Prime Minister had held discussions with party leaders in Parliament on Monday morning, only to find that she had a large majority.
With the historic rocking of the social democratic party in power on Sunday, six of the eight parties in the Swedish Parliament are now in favor of membership, representing a theoretical majority of 304 deputies out of 349, or more than 85%.
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Helsinki has been at the forefront of NATO membership, with Sweden more of a follower.
Only the members benefit from NATO’s umbrella, not the candidates, which prompted Stockholm and Helsinki to request security assurances from several Alliance countries.
“Sweden will find itself in a vulnerable position during the accession period”, underlined Ms Andersson.
The neighboring Nordic countries – Norway, Denmark and Iceland, all three already members of NATO – promised Monday to assist Sweden and Finland “by all means necessary” in the event of aggression.
“We are neighbours, we are friends. We look forward to becoming NATO allies,” said Danish leader Mette Frederiksen.
French President Emmanuel Macron “fully” supports the Swedish decision, reacted the Elysée.
– “Serious error” –
For Moscow, on the other hand, the candidacies of Sweden and Finland to NATO in reaction to the Russian offensive against Ukraine constitute a “serious error” whose “consequences will have a considerable range”, according to the deputy minister. Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Ryabkov.
While the Kremlin justified its invasion of Ukraine by the risk of extending NATO to its doors, Finland’s membership will extend the border between Russia and the countries of the alliance by some 1,300 kilometers.
With Sweden in addition, the Baltic Sea would become a “Nato lake”, outside Russian waters off the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad and Saint Petersburg.
“We are convinced that the entry into NATO of Finland and Sweden will neither strengthen nor improve the security architecture of our continent,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday.
The Eduskunta, the Finnish Parliament, is conducting a marathon session on Monday to examine the candidacy officially presented on Sunday by the executive, before a vote which will take place no earlier than Tuesday.
According to the latest Finnish media reports, at least 85% of the 200 elected will vote yes.
“The only country that threatens European security and openly leads a war of aggression is Russia,” said Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin opening the debate. “Our security environment has fundamentally changed.”
Due to the large number of interventions planned – more than 150 – the vote cannot take place on Monday, warned the president of the chamber Matti Vanhanen.
Formal applications are to be sent to NATO headquarters later in the week, with Stockholm and Helsinki planning a simultaneous application, probably on Wednesday.
NATO had assured that the two countries would be welcomed “with open arms”, but Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan came to blur the prospect of unanimity without difficulty, saying he was hostile to the Swedish-Finnish entry.
Turkey accuses them – especially in Stockholm – of showing too much leniency towards the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the PKK, although it is on the EU list of terrorist organisations.
A Swedish diplomatic delegation will be sent to “see how the issue can be resolved”, Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist announced on Monday.