Poland will assist Sweden and Finland, should they be attacked before obtaining membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Thursday.
“I consider the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO as an important signal of strengthening security in Europe.
“I want to make it clear that in the event of an attack on Sweden or Finland during their accession (process), Poland will come to their aid,” he said during a conference.
Finland and Sweden formally applied to join the NATO alliance on Wednesday, a decision spurred by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and setting in motion an accession process that is expected to take only a few weeks.
Neutral throughout the Cold War, Sweden’s and Finland’s decision to join NATO is one of the most significant changes in Europe’s security architecture in decades, not least because Finland shares a 1,300-km (810-mile) border with Russia.
It also reflects a shift in public opinion in the Nordic region since Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine.
“This is a historic moment which we must seize,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said at a short ceremony at NATO headquarters in which the Swedish and Finnish ambassadors to the alliance handed over their application letters, each in a white folder embossed with their national flag.
“I warmly welcome requests by Finland and Sweden to join NATO. You are our closest partners, and your membership in NATO will increase our shared security,” Stoltenberg said.
The alliance believes the accession of Finland and Sweden will hugely strengthen it in the Baltic Sea.
With the applications formally submitted, the Nordic countries and their many backers now face uncertain months where any resistance to their bids must be overcome, with all 30 of NATO’s members needing to approve the enlargement.
Ratification by all allied parliaments could take up to a year, diplomats say.
Turkey has voiced reservations, saying the two countries harbour individuals linked to groups it deems terrorists and hitting out at arms export embargoes imposed on it after its Syria incursion in 2019.
Turkish state broadcaster TRT Haber reported this week that Sweden and Finland had not granted approval for the repatriation of 33 people that Turkey requested and President Tayyip Erdogan doubled down on criticism on Wednesday.
“NATO expansion is only meaningful for us in proportion to the respect that will be shown to our sensitivities,” he said in a speech to lawmakers from his ruling AK party.
“So you won’t give us back terrorists but you ask us for NATO membership? NATO is an entity for security, an organisation for security.
“Therefore, we cannot say ‘yes’ to this security organisation being deprived of security.”