Finland formally announced its intention to join NATO on Sunday and the party in power in Sweden said it supported membership, paving the way for a joint request.
Within three months since Russia invaded Ukraine, the announcements are a striking reversal of the military policies of not aligning the two Nordic countries, which goes back over 75 years for Finland and 2 centuries for Sweden.
Public and political support for NATO membership has increased in Finland and Sweden over the last few months, and these countries are generally expected to submit applications this week.
“Today is a historic day. A new era is opening up”, said Finnish President Sauli Niinisto during a joint press conference with Prime Minister Sanna Marin on Sunday.
“The best thing for Sweden’s security is that we ask for membership now, and we do so with Finland, Social Democratic Premier Magdalena Andersson said so a few hours later in Stockholm.
The flip-flop of her party, which has opposed NATO membership since the inception of the alliance, won a strong majority in the Swedish Parliament in favor of membership.
However, Andersson said she would consult Parliament on Monday before officially announcing her government’s intention to make a request.
The issue had divided the Social Democrats, with some members fearing that the decision would be made in a hurry.
If Sweden’s request was approved, the party would make every effort to express “unilateral reservations against the deployment of nuclear weapons and permanent bases on Swedish territory,” it said in a statement.
According to recent surveys, the number of Finns wishing to join the alliance has increased to over three-quarters, nearly three times more than before the start of the Ukrainian war on February 24.
Support in Sweden has also increased dramatically, reaching approximately 50 percent.