Sweden and Finland’s NATO Membership Coming ‘As Soon as Possible,’ Deputy Secretary General Says
NATO leaders also are expected to bolster the alliance’s eastern flank with new plans at next month’s Madrid summit.
NATO leaders expect to process Sweden and Finland’s formal applications for alliance membership quickly, according to the organization’s deputy secretary general.
Since Thursday, Finnish and Swedish leaders have announced their states’ formal intentions to join the military alliance, which would greatly expand NATO’s frontier directly bordering Russia.
“NATO will try to work expeditiously and we'll try to deliver these memberships as soon as possible,” Mircea Geoană said, in an interview with Defense One on Friday. Geoană said that NATO should be able to consider those nations’ applications quickly when compared to previous applications because Finland and Sweden have relatively few, if any, reforms to undertake. They are “already vibrant democracies, well-performing militaries, and already very much interoperable with NATO,” he said.
NATO leaders next month also will put forward new plans to strengthen its eastern flank against Russian aggression.
“One of the big components of the NATO summit in Madrid [at the end of June] will be a decision by leaders in NATO to bolster deterrence and defense on the Eastern Flank of NATO. That's a very important transformation,” Geoană said. A new strategy on the eastern flank is expected to be one of “the deliverables” out of the meeting. “Mr. Putin is basically the best agent for new members to join NATO. Also Mr. Putin is the best agent for us to strengthen the eastern flank of NATO,” said Geoană.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday that he would not necessarily view Finland and Sweden joining NATO as a direct threat but he cautioned that “the expansion of military infrastructure into this territory would certainly provoke our response.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to prevent a quick expansion with Sweden and Finland over objections to an arms embargo and support for Kurdish groups, in recent remarks. Finland has dismissed the objection and proceeded with its application on Monday. Sweden’s foreign ministry said on Monday that officials from all three countries will meet in Ankara, reportedly. .
Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, in Berlin on Sunday and later told reporters, “as to the differences between Turkey, Finland, and Sweden that have been talked about, there’s an ongoing conversation, and the bottom line is this: When it comes to the membership process, I am very confident that we will reach consensus.”
On Monday, NATO Secretary General Jen Stoltenberg also spoke with Çavuşoğlu, saying afterward in a tweet, “Turkey is a valued Ally & any security concerns need to be addressed. We must stand together at this historic moment.”
Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman then pressed Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal in Washington on Monday, according to the State Department, on “the need for solidarity among NATO Allies and partners in confronting Russia’s premeditated, unprovoked, and unjustified attack on Ukraine and in imposing real costs on Putin and his cronies.”
During next month’s NATO meeting of heads of state and government in Spain, members will also discuss how NATO and the EU can better coordinate their moves.
Geoană said he also expects the alliance to announce a new package of cooperation with the for Asia-Pacific region partners related to technology, space, and freedom of navigation, “This is where we find natural fragility between NATO and our partners in Asia Pacific,” he said.