NATO chief vows to move fast on membership applications for Sweden, Finland

The Nordic countries applied in the wake of Putin's invasion of Ukraine.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday that the organization plans to move fast on the process of allowing Sweden and Finland to join its ranks, following requests from the two countries to join.

"I warmly welcome the requests by Finland and Sweden to join NATO," said Stoltenberg. "You are our closest partners. 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."

Finland's and Sweden's ambassadors to NATO submitted the applications Tuesday against the will of Russia, which has threatened to respond to such a move. The applications were the direct result of Russia's unprovoked war in Ukraine.

Once the membership process is complete, which will likely take several months, the countries will benefit from NATO's Article 5 security guarantee, which pledges that an attack on one member of the alliance is considered an attack on every member.

"Putin's appalling ambitions have transformed the geopolitical contours of our continent," tweeted British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The move by Finland and Sweden is perhaps the single largest geopolitical ramification of the war thus far.

NATO is determined to make what is typically a one-year process into a faster one, given the threat of aggression hanging over the heads of the Nordic countries.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is opposed to admitting the two countries. The admission of new members to the alliance requires the unanimous approval of all 30 member nations, including Turkey.