Leaders of Finland and Sweden confirmed on Tuesday that the Nordic nations would jointly submit their applications for NATO membership this week, and would travel to Washington to meet with President Biden.
“Sweden has remained our most important partner,” President Sauli Niinisto of Finland said in an appearance with King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden at the royal palace in Stockholm. “Our security policies have long been similar, and we now take our steps together.”
Mr. Niinisto arrived in Sweden on a long-planned state visit that has acquired major symbolic importance since the two nations decided in recent days to cast aside decades of strategic neutrality and seek NATO membership in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In a speech to Sweden’s Parliament, Mr. Niinisto said that Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO membership would bolster the Nordic nations, which already “form a strong northern quintet.”
“We are adding security to a very successful brand,” Mr. Niinisto said.
Later, at a joint news conference, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson of Sweden said: “Finland and Sweden have a long joint history. We now also have a shared future.
Mr. Niinisto and Ms. Andersson will meet jointly on Thursday with Mr. Biden in Washington, where they will discuss their bids for NATO membership, Russia’s war in Ukraine and “the relationship of Europe and the United States in the changed security situation,” according to a statement from the Finnish presidency.
Sweden’s foreign minister, Ann Linde, signed her country’s application to join NATO on Tuesday morning, telling reporters, “It feels momentous, and it feels like we now have reached what we think is best for Sweden.”
After Finland’s Parliament voted 188 to 8 on Tuesday in favor of the country’s application to join the alliance, Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto signed the application. The vote was largely seen as a formality, but the Finnish president and government have stressed the importance of a full democratic process, given the importance of the decision.
Sweden and Finland, which already work closely with NATO, are expected to submit their applications to the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday at the same time. Joining NATO, a process that the alliance has pledged to fast-track, would grant the countries protection under its mutual defense agreement, but the move could also be considered as a threat by Russia, with which Finland shares a more than 800-mile-long border.
All 30 existing NATO members would have to agree to admit them, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has signaled reluctance to allow their accession, voicing harsh criticism of Sweden as a haven for Kurdish separatists whom he regards as terrorists.
Mr. Niinisto said he was surprised by Mr. Erdogan’s comments, because when the two leaders spoke several weeks ago, the Turkish leader did not express opposition to Finland joining NATO.
“Turkey’s statements quickly changed and hardened in recent days,” he said. “But I am sure that we can, with the help of constructive conversations, resolve the situation.”
Christina Anderson contributed reporting from Bastad, Sweden.