NATO would quickly welcome Finland and Sweden into its ranks if they decide to join, said the top civilian official of the military alliance, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, while the situation in Ukraine encourages public support for the two Nordic countries to join.
It could also provide security guarantees to these countries if any potential candidacy for NATO membership angered Russia, said Stoltenberg.
Last month’s poll by Finnish television ILE showed that, for the first time, more than 50% of Finns support joining the western military alliance.
In neighboring Sweden, a similar poll found that those in favour of NATO membership outnumbered those against.
“If they decide to apply, I expect all the allies to welcome them”, Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels, as NATO foreign ministers met to discuss the war in Ukraine.
On the other hand, before the war against Ukraine began, Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded that NATO, which has 30 member countries, stop expanding and withdraw its troops from Russia’s borders. The prospect of neighbouring Finland and Sweden joining NATO is unlikely to be welcome in Moscow.
Finnish Foreign Minister Peka Haavisto said his country’s lawmakers would discuss a white paper on security this month, including the possibility of joining NATO.
He said that the Russian invasion of Ukraine had changed public opinion.
“For three or four weeks we have for the first time had a majority for joining”, said Haavisto, adding that Finnish leaders were in contact with US President Joseph Biden and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken about NATO.