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EXPLAINED: The next five steps to a Swedish Nato membership

Sweden has now overcome the chief hurdle to Nato membership, winning the backing of Turkey. Here's a brief outline of the Nato accession process, with a timeline of how long it could take for Sweden to become members.

EXPLAINED: The next five steps to a Swedish Nato membership
File photo of Swedish and Nato flags outside the Swedish foreign ministry in 1996. Photo: Ingvar Karmhed/SCANPIX/TT

Dialogue with Nato and assessment of expressions of interest

After formally deciding to join the alliance, Sweden and Finland will start to discuss the question of membership with Nato more intensely, without Nato confirming that membership requests will be granted.

Discussions could include how the countries’ defence forces can contribute to Nato, any special requests from Sweden (such as a ban on nuclear weapons on Swedish soil), and how much Sweden will contribute to Nato’s common budget. 

Formal invitation to become members and letter of intent

After assessing both countries’ expressions of interest in joining the alliance, Nato will offer a formal invitation to become members, once all Nato countries have agreed that Sweden and Finland should be allowed to join.

Sweden will then submit a letter of intent to Nato, along with timetables for completion of any required reforms. The letter will be signed by Swedens’ foreign minister Ann Linde, and addressed to Nato’s Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg.

Accession protocol

Nato prepares an accession protocol to the Washington Treaty for Sweden. The protocol amends the Washington Treaty, and once signed and ratified by the Allies, it become an integral part of the Treaty itself and permits the invited countries to become parties to the Treaty.

Ratification of accession protocols

Nato members ratify the accession protocols. The length of this stage is the most unpredictable, with different countries having different processes. The US requires a two-thirds majority of the Senate to ratify a new member, while the UK requires no parliamentary vote at all. All 30 Nato members need to ratify Sweden’s accession protocols.  

Sweden and Finland are, however, both uncontroversial applicants (unlike say, Ukraine or Georgia), so member states’ parliaments are likely to ultimately vote to let them join. 

But it one or more of Nato’s member states throws up objections (perhaps seeking concessions on other issues), the process could get bogged down.

Turkey have voiced their opposition to Sweden and Finland joining the alliance. Hultqvist said that Sweden was sending a group of civil servants to discuss Turkey’s objections to Swedish Nato membership — something Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said would not prevent Sweden joining the alliance. 

Membership granted

The governments of Sweden and Finland submit proposals to their respective parliaments to accept the accession agreement. Sweden and Finland become Nato members.

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Sweden joining Nato ‘no problem for Russia’

Russia has "no problem" if Finland and Sweden join Nato, President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday.

Sweden joining Nato 'no problem for Russia'

“We don’t have problems with Sweden and Finland like we do with Ukraine,” Putin told a news conference in the Turkmenistan capital of Ashgabat.

“We don’t have territorial differences. There is nothing that could bother us about Sweden and Finland joining Nato. If Finland and Sweden wish to, they can join. That’s up to them. They can join whatever they want.”

However, “if military contingents and military infrastructure were deployed there, we would be obliged to respond symmetrically and raise the same threats for those territories where threats have arisen for us,” Putin said.


Sweden and Finland have both decided to apply to join Nato after Russia launched its military operation in pro-Western Ukraine on February 24. The formal process for membership was launched at the Nato summit in Madrid on Wednesday.

Until now, Russia had always been critical of the prospect of the two Nordic countries joining the alliance, saying it would be a “destabilising factor” for international security. Putin nevertheless condemned Nato’s “imperial ambitions”, accusing the alliance of seeking to assert its “supremacy” through the Ukraine conflict.

“Ukraine and the well-being of Ukrainian people is not the aim of the collective West and Nato but a means to defend their own interests,” Putin said. “The Nato countries’ leaders wish to… assert their supremacy, their imperial ambitions.” 

The Atlantic alliance and “above all the United States have long needed an external enemy around which they can unite their allies,” the Russian leader said. “Iran wasn’t good for that. We’ve given them this opportunity… to gather the whole world around them.”