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US urges Turkey, Hungary to let Sweden join NATO ‘without delay’

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken marked Finland’s arrival in the NATO alliance on Tuesday with an appeal to Hungary and Turkey to drop their objections to Sweden’s following suit, Agence France-Presse reported.

“Sweden is also a strong and capable partner that is ready to join NATO,” Blinken said.

“We encourage Turkey and Hungary to ratify the accession protocols for Sweden without delay so we can welcome Sweden into the alliance as soon as possible.”

Finland became the 31st member of NATO on Tuesday, in a historic realignment of Europe’s defenses that drew an angry warning of “countermeasures” from the Kremlin.

Russia’s all-out invasion of Ukraine last year upended Europe’s security landscape and prompted Finland — and its neighbor Sweden — to drop decades of military non-alignment.

Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto formally wrapped up the process by submitting Helsinki’s accession papers to Blinken, the formal keeper of NATO’s founding treaty.

“With receipt of this instrument of accession, we can now declare that Finland is the 31st member of the North Atlantic Treaty,” Blinken said at a ceremony in NATO’s Brussels headquarters.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Russian President Vladimir Putin had “wanted to slam NATO’s door shut. Today we show the world that he failed, that aggression and intimidation do not work.”

“Finland now has the strongest friends and allies in the world,” he said.

Joining NATO places Finland under the alliance’s Article Five, the collective defense pledge that an attack on one member “shall be considered an attack against them all.”

This was the guarantee Finnish leaders decided they needed as they watched Putin’s devastating assault on Ukraine.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said, “It is a great day for Finland, and I want to say that it is an important day for NATO.”

But Moscow erupted in anger at the move, which doubles its land border with NATO member states to 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles), branding it an “assault” on Russia’s security and national interests.

“This forces us to take countermeasures … in tactical and strategic terms,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Awkward allies Turkey and Hungary, for reasons of their own, delayed Finland’s bid to come under the NATO umbrella — and Stockholm’s progress remains blocked.

But last week the Turkish parliament voted to clear Finland’s final hurdle.

Completing the ratification in well under a year still makes this the fastest membership process in the alliance’s recent history.

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