Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary general, announced on Sunday that the security bloc would grant fast-track membership to Sweden and Finland. The move raises the pressure on Vladimir Putin, who justified Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by what he cast as the need to keep the military alliance away from his country’s borders.
Finland’s Parliament is expected to ratify a NATO application Monday, and Sweden’s governing Social Democratic Party said it would vote in favour of joining.
“President Putin wants Ukraine defeated, NATO down, North America and Europe divided,” Stoltenberg said. “But Ukraine stands, NATO is stronger than ever, Europe and North America are solidly united.”
The decision by Finland and Sweden to apply to join NATO raises the likelihood that the alliance’s troops will deploy along Russia’s 810-mile border with Finland.
An application to join NATO must be unanimously approved by its 30 members. One of them, Turkey, has raised issues over the pending applications, though it has suggested it will not oppose admission if its own security concerns are addressed.
Ukrainian forces have advanced to near the Russian border in recent days after pushing Russian troops from the outskirts of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city. Evidence is growing that Russia’s offensive in the Donbas region farther east is faltering after initial modest gains.
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