Finland and Sweden apply to join Nato - adding nearly a million troops to force

18 May 2022, 10:14 | Updated: 18 May 2022, 10:19

Finland and Sweden handed in their Nato applications on Wednesday.
Finland and Sweden handed in their Nato applications on Wednesday. Picture: Alamy/Getty

By Emma Soteriou

Finland and Sweden have officially applied to join Nato, potentially adding an extra million troops to the alliance's forces.

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Axel Wernhoff and Klaus Korhonen, the Swedish and Finnish ambassadors to Nato, submitted their formal letters of application to secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesday.

The move - fuelled by security concerns after Russia's invasion of Ukraine - has piled the pressure on Putin, who could face a further million troops along with state of the art artillery, planes and submarines if both countries are accepted.

Despite not previously being a part of the alliance, Finland and Sweden have worked very closely with Nato.

They have functioning democracies and well-funded armed forces working in their favour as well as having contributed to the alliance's military operations and air policing.

Read more: Ukraine 'can win' war, says Nato chief as huge military exercise gets under way in Estonia

Read more: Turkey could block Sweden and Finland from joining NATO, claims ex-Erdogan aide

If both countries join Nato, Putin could face a further million troops.
If both countries join Nato, Putin could face a further million troops. Picture: Alamy

Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said: "I warmly welcome the requests by Finland and Sweden to join Nato. You are our closest partners.

"This is a good day at a critical moment for our security."

The applications must now be considered by the 30 member countries, which is expected to take about two weeks.

However, Turkey is one member that has already expressed concerns of the two new possible additions.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he could not support their entry bids due to Kurdish terrorist organisations operating in both countries.

If his objections are overcome, and accession talks go as well as expected, the two could become members within a few months.

It comes after Putin warned Finland's president in a phone call on Saturday morning that abandoning neutrality and joining Nato would be a "mistake".

The process usually takes eight to 12 months, but Nato wants to move quickly given the threat from Russia hanging over the heads of the Nordic countries.

Ambassadors for each country presented their official submissions.
Ambassadors for each country presented their official submissions. Picture: Getty

Canada said that it expected to ratify their accession protocol in just a few days.

Mr Stoltenberg echoed that same urgency, saying that Nato allies "are determined to work through all issues and reach rapid conclusions".

"All allies agree on the importance of Nato enlargement. We all agree that we must stand together, and we all agree that this is an historic moment which we must seize," he said at Nato headquarters in Brussels.

The North Atlantic Council will decide whether to move towards membership and what steps must be taken to achieve it.

The outcome will mostly depend on how well aligned the candidate countries are with Nato political, military and legal standards, and whether they contribute to security in the North Atlantic area, which should pose no substantial problem for Finland and Sweden.