The bloc will ?warmly? welcome it and fellow applicant Finland, NATO's chief promised
The Swedish government is expected to resolve all differences on NATO membership by the end of the week and send its application on Monday, the same day as Finland, local media said on Thursday, citing sources. Earlier on Thursday, the Finnish leadership endorsed accession to the US-led military block.
According to the Swedish newspaper Expressen, a series of official meetings will culminate early next week in a formal request by Sweden to become a NATO ally.
The ruling Social Democrats will hold a virtual meeting later on Thursday to discuss the issue. On Friday morning, the minority government and parties that support it passively in the parliament are to present to the public a generally favorable view of joining the alliance, the newspaper said. Unlike in Finland, there will be no direct call for membership. This is in order to address reservations that some people in the ranks of the Left and Greens have, the report said. This will be followed by a Social Democrat leadership meeting on Sunday.
The key moment will come on Monday, when a parliamentary debate will be held on the issue. Provided that the legislature supports the move, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson will issue a formal request later on the same day, the sources said.
Earlier on Thursday, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin made a joint statement, in which they said they believed Finland should join NATO. The nation's parliament is expected to approve the decision on Monday, with a formal request to be issued the same day.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg reiterated that the US-led organization would be eager to include both nations and would make the accession process fast. All 30 of the current member states must approve any additions before they are completed.
"If they decide to apply, Finland and Sweden will be warmly welcomed and I expect the process to go quickly," Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels, adding that arrangements would be made to provide for the defense of the applicants during the interim period.
A source cited by Russian news agency TASS said NATO may offer Finland and Sweden a Membership Action Plan (MAP) as soon as the end of June. The formal process usually takes years, from receiving the invitation to full accession.
However, the two nations will be considered high-priority applicants, which are already closely integrated with NATO's political and military infrastructure, so they would be fast-tracked to join, the diplomat predicted.
Both Sweden and Finland remained non-aligned during the period of the Cold War, which allowed them to serve as intermediaries between the rival ideological blocs. The drive to include them in NATO was given impetus after Russia's offensive against Ukraine.
Moscow said NATO's creeping expansion into Ukraine was a major threat to its national security and one of the reasons for its actions in Ukraine. It warned Sweden and Finland that they would compromise their security, rather than improve it, by joining the alliance.
Russia attacked the neighboring state in late February, following Ukraine's failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow's eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered protocols were designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.
The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.