US announces ‘strong support’ for Finland and Sweden to join NATO; Putin says it’s ‘a mistake’

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday that the country supports the entry of Finland and Sweden into NATO, the western military alliance.

Blinken spoke after a meeting of foreign ministers of NATO members in Berlin, Germany. He said he had heard “almost widespread support” for the new additions.

Said the Joe Biden administration official: “The United States government would strongly support Sweden or Finland’s application for NATO membership, should they decide to formally apply.”

The Finnish government officially announced on Sunday 15 its intention to join NATO. In Sweden, the ruling party held a decisive meeting on a possible membership application.

The Finnish statement marks a sharp change in the country’s non-alignment policy, which has lasted more than 75 years. Sweden, in turn, can conclude a stance that began in the 19th century.

The Parliament of Finland is due to examine this Monday 16 the accession project.

There are, however, international voices that question the movement. Turkey has expressed some objectionsalleging that Finland and Sweden are negligent towards members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which is at war with Turkey and appears on the European Union’s list of terrorist organizations.

However, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he was confident of resolving Turkey’s concerns and insisted that the country is not opposed to membership applications.

Sweden and Finland broke political neutrality in the 1990s, with the end of the Cold War, when they became members of the European Union. The two countries moved even closer to the Western bloc after the start of the war in Ukraine.

Finland, with 1,300 km of border with Russia, was the first to take the initiative. Sweden follows the movement, fearful of becoming the only Baltic Sea country (with the exception of Russia) outside the US-led alliance.

On Saturday 14, Russian President Vladimir Putin told Finnish President Sauli Niinistö that the decision to abandon neutrality was a mistake.

In a telephone conversation, Putin said the move could damage the relationship between the countries.

“Vladimir Putin highlighted that ending the traditional policy of military neutrality would be a mistake, as there is no threat to the security of Finland,” reads a statement issued by the Kremlin.

The Russian government added: “Such a change in the country’s political orientation could have a negative impact on Russian-Finnish relations which have developed over years in a spirit of good neighborliness and cooperation and were to the advantage of both.”

In the call, Putin also discussed with the Finnish president the negotiations with Ukraine, “practically suspended by Kiev, which shows no interest in a constructive and serious dialogue”.

The NATO membership process takes several months and requires the unanimous support of the Alliance’s 30 members.

(With information from AFP)

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