Sweden announced its intent to apply for NATO membership Monday, breaking from nearly 200 years of military nonalignment.
Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said the measure was "broadly affirmed" in the Parliament, which is also mulling a bill to allow Stockholm to receive military support from all NATO and EU countries, a move that is likely to alienate Russian President Vladimir Putin.
TURKEY THREATENS TO DERAIL FINLAND AND SWEDEN ACCESSION TO NATO
"After the debate, the Swedish government formally decided to apply for NATO membership," Andersson announced. “We will inform NATO that we want to become a member of the alliance."
Stockholm had been widely expected to express its intent to join the military alliance. Only two out of Sweden’s eight major parties opposed the initiative Monday, allowing the country to join Finland, which formally announced plans to apply to the alliance last Thursday.
A potential foil in Sweden's plans to join NATO is Turkey, which voiced opposition to Sweden and Finland joining the alliance last week. Ankara did not explicitly announce plans to block the two Nordic countries' accession into the alliance, but NATO makes its decisions by consensus, so Turkey could derail the move.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan scolded the two Nordic nations last Friday for supporting Kurdish "terrorist organizations." On Monday, Turkish media reported that Sweden and Turkey have denied repatriation requests from Ankara for 33 people associated with the Kurdistan Workers' Party or Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, Reuters reported. Turkey has accused those individuals of participating in a 2016 coup attempt against Erdogan.
News of Finland and Sweden's desire to join NATO had been met warmly by countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom, which have sought clarification from Ankara on whether it will oppose Sweden and Finland's ascension. Officials in the two Nordic countries have sought to assuage Turkey over the weekend, conducting diplomatic meetings with top Turkish officials. Ankara demanded that Finland and Sweden end the ban on certain arms sales to Turkey and stop supporting certain Kurdish groups.
Russia has strongly condemned the prospects of Sweden and Finland joining the alliance.
“They should have no illusions that we will simply put up with it,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov warned Monday per Interfax, a state-run media agency. "The general level of military tension will increase, predictability in this area will become less. It is a pity that common sense is being sacrificed for some phantom ideas about what should be done in the current situation."
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Despite friendly relations with NATO countries, both Sweden and Finland refrained from applying for NATO membership for decades, but Putin's offensive in Ukraine has seemingly shifted the calculus. Both of the Nordic countries roundly condemned the invasion. Sweden is located in close proximity to Russia, and Finland shares a border with Russia.
Once a nation expresses interest in joining NATO, current members can "accede" by unanimous agreement. This process could take as long as a year, according to CNN. NATO currently has 30 members.