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Finland, Sweden to Join NATO This Summer
By Staff, Agencies
Finland and Sweden could join NATO as early as this summer amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine – as US officials blast Putin's war a “massive strategic blunder”.
Membership is understood to have been a 'topic of discussion' during talks between NATO's foreign ministers last week.
Finland is expected to apply to join the alliance in June, followed by neighboring Sweden, despite warnings from Russia that membership would lead to “the destruction of their country”.
It comes after Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said it was time for the country to reconsider its stance on NATO, while Swedish leader Magdalena Andersson refused to rule out an application.
Finland, which has a long border with Russia and was invaded by the Red Army in 1939, has never been a member of the Cold War defense alliance, preferring instead to organize its own protection.
However, since Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February, opinion polls commissioned by Finnish media outlets have shown a swift U-turn in public opinion with the majority now favoring joining.
And Sweden is currently undertaking a review of its security that is due for completion at the end of this month – similar to Finland's timetable, The Times reports.
If granted membership, NATO’s alliance would rise to 32 nations amid hopes that the Russian military would be stretched even further.
Sweden and Finland are the two closest countries to Russia in the Arctic Circle, with the Kremlin previously threatening 'military consequences' if either joined NATO.
But Marin said, “Russia is not the neighbor we thought it was.”
She added, “I think we will have very careful discussions, but we are also not taking any more time than we have to in this process, because the situation is, of course, very severe.”
Finland has opted to remain neutral since World War Two, choosing instead to act as a buffer between East and West when Europe was carved up during the Cold War, affording it more flexibility in its foreign policy while allaying Russian fears of Western expansion.
But Alexander Stubb, who headed Finland's government in 2014 and 2015, also said the country could decide to join the military alliance as soon as May.
He added, “In the beginning of the war I said that Putin’s aggression will drive Finland and Sweden to apply for NATO membership.”
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