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Finland, Sweden, and the Road to NATO Membership

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg attends a ceremony to mark Sweden's and Finland's application for membership, May 18, 2022.

Finland and Sweden submitted applications for membership in the NATO Alliance.

Finland, Sweden, And The Road To NATO Membership
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On May 18, Finland and Sweden submitted applications for membership in the NATO Alliance.

Historically, Finland and Sweden have been militarily non-aligned, a stance that reflected the preferences of their people. As recently as January 2022, only about 20 percent of the population of Finland favored NATO membership. That number rose to 53 percent after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine, and by mid-May, some 76 percent of Finns believed that Finland should join NATO.

Finland is “a free and open society,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken. “The move was driven by strong public support.”

“Finnish people, press, and politicians debated the prospect openly. And when the country’s democratically elected parliament put the issue to a vote, 188 out of 200 members supported applying for membership. That is what a democratic process looks like.”

“Finland and Sweden’s applications also reaffirm NATO’s “Open Door” policy, which has been a cornerstone of the Alliance since its very founding,” said Secretary Blinken.

“That door will stay open, reflecting our belief that every country should have the right to choose its allies and partners and to pursue membership if it chooses. That is not a provocation or a threat to Russia. We say this often, but it bears repeating: NATO is and always will be a defensive Alliance.”

“There is a very strong consensus in NATO for the admission of Finland and Sweden, and I remain confident that we will work through this process swiftly and that things will move forward with both countries,” said Secretary Blinken.

Nonetheless, attaining membership in NATO is neither rapid nor easy. Accession requires candidate countries to advance through an application process. Ultimately, all current NATO Allies must approve the membership. And when it comes to Finland and Sweden, one Ally, Turkey, has expressed opposition.

However, said Secretary Blinken, “Finland and Sweden are working directly with Turkey to address some of the concerns that it raised.”

“It is a process. In that process, countries raise concerns that they may have. We work through them; that’s what Finland and Sweden are doing right now with Turkey, and I’m confident that this will move forward.”

“The United States fully supports Finland and Sweden joining the Alliance,” said Secretary Blinken, “and I continue to be confident that both countries will soon be NATO Allies.”