Foreign Ministers of Canada, UK, Norwegian, Sweden, Iceland, Germany, Slovakia and Belgium pose as during a Nato summit in Madrid, Spain, on Wednesday. Reuters
Nato's 30 allies took the decision at their summit in Madrid and also agreed to formally treat Russia as the "most significant and direct threat to the allies' security," according to a summit statement.
"Today, we have decided to invite Finland and Sweden to become members of Nato," leaders said in their declaration, after Turkey lifted a veto on Finland and Sweden joining.
Ratification in allied parliaments is likely to take up to a year, but once it is done, Finland and Sweden will be covered by Nato's Article 5 collective defence clause, putting them under the United States' protective nuclear umbrella.
"We will make sure we are able to protect all allies, including Finland and Sweden," Stoltenberg said.
Nato leaders after signing a document during a summit in Madrid. Reuters
In the meantime, the allies are set to increase their troop presence in the Nordic region, holding more military exercises and naval patrols in the Baltic Sea to reassure Sweden and Finland.
After four hours of talks in Madrid on Tuesday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan agreed with his Finnish and Swedish counterparts a series of security measures to allow the two Nordic countries to overcome the Turkish veto that Ankara imposed in May due to its concerns about terrorism.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation was founded in 1949 to defend against the Soviet threat. Russia's Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine gave the organisation a new impetus after failures in Afghanistan and internal discord during the era of former US president Donald Trump.
"We are sending a strong message to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin: 'you will not win'," Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said in a speech.
Allies also agreed on Nato's first new strategic concept — its master planning document - in a decade. Russia, previously classed as a strategic partner of Nato, is now identified as Nato's main threat.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine is "a direct threat to our Western way of life," Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo added, citing the wider impact of the war, such as rising energy and food prices.
The planning document also cited China as a challenge for the first time, setting the stage for the 30 allies to plan to handle Beijing's transformation from a benign trading partner to a fast-growing competitor from the Arctic to cyberspace.
Unlike Russia, whose war in Ukraine has raised serious concerns in the Baltics of an attack on Nato territory, China is not an adversary, Nato leaders said. But Stoltenberg has repeatedly called on Beijing to condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow says is a "special operation."
Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops in Ukraine in what he said was a "special military operation" to rid the country of fascists. Ukraine and the West said Putin launched an unprovoked "imperial" land grab.
With Finland and Sweden taking steps to join NATO amid Russia’s war in Ukraine, the list of “neutral” or nonaligned countries in Europe appears poised to shrink. Like the two Nordic countries, other nations joined the European Union for its promise
Turkey said the four-way meeting, which will also involve NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, did not mean that Ankara was close to lifting its objection to the two Nordic countries joining the military bloc.
Less than three months after Russia invaded Ukraine, the announcements are a stunning reversal of the two Nordic countries' military non-alignment policies, dating back more than 75 years for Finland and two centuries for Sweden.
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