Latvia’s parliament could sign off NATO membership for Finland and Sweden within hours if the two Nordic countries applied to join the alliance, the country’s prime minister said Wednesday.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Krišjānis Kariņš said that if Finland and Sweden decided to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, it would be a boost “not only to their own security but to regional security as well.”
“If they applied for NATO membership, I’m certain that our parliament would convene if it’s early enough in the day that very same day to ratify,” he said. “I think that throughout NATO, there would be a very rapid process.”
Despite Russian threats of consequences if Finland and Sweden become part of the alliance, there are indications the two countries may do so.
Last week, Finland’s parliament started debating the issue. Sweden’s ruling Social Democratic party, long opposed to membership, is also holding deliberations on joining.
If applications to join NATO came in the next few weeks, it would open the way to the alliance potentially approving their bids at its Madrid summit at the end of June. All 30 members would need to approve an application.
NATO Chief Jens Stoltenberg has said that any membership bid is likely to be speedily approved for Finland and Sweden and that alliance members might be prepared to offer some kind of security guarantees while the accession process was ongoing.
Before invading Ukraine, Russia had demanded Washington and NATO agree to rule out any further alliance expansion.
In recent months, Latvia’s government has approved a new defense spending target of 2.5% of gross domestic product and the country of around two million people has given some 200 million euros, equivalent to $211 million, in military assistance to Ukraine, Mr. Kariņš said.
Mr. Kariņš said he is working around the clock ahead of June’s NATO summit in Madrid to persuade colleagues to endorse a permanent bolstered presence on the alliance’s eastern flank.
“We are absolutely moving in the right direction,” Mr. Kariņš said. “But we have go that extra mile and we have to all come to the understanding that a robust, permanent, powerful presence is an absolute necessity.”