BRUSSELS — Finland and Sweden have signaled their intention to join NATO following Russia’s war in Ukraine and things will move quickly once they formally apply to join the world’s largest security alliance.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has already made clear that there will be consequences if the two Nordic countries join. It is therefore important that NATO brings them quickly into the fold where they can benefit from the security guarantees that membership offers.
They start quickly. Finland and Sweden are NATO’s closest partners. They have functioning democracies, well-funded armed forces, and contribute to alliance military operations and air policing. The obstacles they will face will simply be of a technical or even political nature.
HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE FOR FINLAND AND SWEDEN TO JOIN NATO?
NATO officials said the membership process could be completed “in a few weeks”.
But the most time-consuming part – the ratification of their accession protocols by the 30 member countries of the alliance, sometimes involving parliaments – could take months. How much is everyone guessing, although this stage has taken eight to 12 months with recent applicants.
Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said on Monday that “we think it could take days for Canada.” The fastest were West Germany, Turkey and Greece, whose approval took about four months in the 1950s, when NATO was less than half its current size. Yet the war on NATO’s doorstep is sure to focus people’s minds.
The United States and Britain, among others, stand ready to provide security support if needed until the process is complete.
HOW DOES A COUNTRY GO TO JOIN?
The NATO membership process is not formalized and the steps may vary.
However, a membership application must first be submitted. It usually comes in the form of a letter from a minister or government official.
NATO then evaluates this request. This is done at a session of the North Atlantic Council (NAC) of the 30 member countries, probably at ambassadorial level.
The NAC decides whether to become a member and what steps need to be taken to achieve this. It depends on the degree to which candidate countries align with NATO’s political, military and legal standards and their contribution to security in the North Atlantic region. This should be no problem for Finland and Sweden.
HOW DO MEMBERSHIP LYRICS WORK?
If the CAN gives the green light, membership talks take place. These are likely to be completed in a single day. The steps are quite simple.
The candidate is asked to commit to Article 5 – NATO’s collective defense clause ensuring that an attack on one ally would be met with a response from all. He is expected to commit to spending obligations on NATO’s internal budget, which is about $2.5 billion.
The candidate is briefed on their role in NATO defense planning and any other legal or security obligations they may have, such as personnel vetting and handling of classified information.
NATO staff then draft a report informing allies of the outcome of the talks. The report indicates what issues have been raised with the partner and what commitments that country has made. At the same time, the candidate sends a letter, usually from a minister of foreign affairs, confirming that his country accepts all these obligations.
HOW DO I KNOW THAT THEY ARE ACCEPTED?
The membership report and the candidate’s letter are again submitted to the NAC for final decision.
The council — which can meet at the level of ambassadors, ministers, or leaders — then reviews the application and decides whether or not to sign the membership protocol with the candidate.
If so, a small ceremony is organized giving symbolic and legal form to this part of the membership process. The protocol is then sent to capitals for ratification according to 30 national procedures, some of which require parliamentary approval.
Once completed, the guest then ratifies the protocol and deposits it in Washington. They are then officially members and their national flag is hoisted in front of NATO headquarters in Brussels.
ARE THERE ANY OBJECTIONS TO JOIN THEM?
NATO takes all its decisions by consensus, so each country has a de facto right of veto.
Last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan raised concerns about Finland’s and Sweden’s stance on Kurdish militants, whom Turkey calls terrorists.
Erdogan has not outright threatened to veto membership, and officials and analysts believe he won’t stop them. No other country has raised serious objections to their membership, either publicly at home or at NATO headquarters in Brussels, officials said.
Follow AP coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine