If Finland and Sweden apply to join NATO, they would be welcomed, Stoltenberg says

"If they apply, I expect that 30 allies will welcome them," the alliance's secretary-general said.

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NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg attends a news conference on the eve of a NATO summit, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Brussels on March 23, 2022. (Gonzalo Fuentes / Reuters File Photo)

BRUSSELS — NATO allies would welcome Finland and Sweden into the alliance if they decided to join but any such move is up to the two nations, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Tuesday.

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“It’s for them to decide of course but if they apply, I expect that 30 allies will welcome them,” Stoltenberg told a news conference.

He said NATO would likely find ways “to address the concerns they may have about this interim period between having applied and until the last ratification (by allies) has taken place,” referring to possible Russian retaliation before the pair were fully under NATO protection.

Reporting by Robin Emmott.