© NATOGeneralsekretær Jens Stoltenberg ved et pressemøde
NATO's generalsekretær Jens Stoltenberg sagde, at Finland og Sverige hurtigt ville blive bragt ind i alliancen, hvis de søger medlemskab, da Ruslands invasion af Ukraine vækker sikkerhedsproblemer på blokkens østlige flanke.

'Selvfølgelig er det op til dem at bestemme, men hvis de ansøger, forventer jeg, at de vil blive meget velkomne af alle 30 allierede, og at vi vil finde måder at gøre det på en relativt hurtig måde for at tage dem ind i alliancen, hvis de så vil,« sagde Stoltenberg søndag i et interview med CNN.

Kommentar: Delvist oversat af af fra NATO offers fast track membership to neutral Finland and Sweden, days after Russia asks Europe for security guarantee

Det er usandsynligt, at alle 30 NATO-medlemmer ønsker at provokere Rusland på en sådan måde.

Stoltenberg made his comments after meeting last week with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö, noting that NATO's main message was that it's for Finland to decide whether to join the alliance. He said the same is true of Sweden.

"We respect the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Finland and their right to decide their own future," the secretary-general said.

"That's exactly what Russia do not respect, because they actually try to intimidate and to say that if Finland decides to join NATO, there will be consequences."

Comment: Finland's future isn't the only consideration here, because it's an understood principle of geopolitics that one can't advance one's own security at the expense of anothers.

Although both countries are EU members, they have stayed out of NATO, maintaining a neutral status militarily. Finnish lawmakers are considering whether to seek NATO membership and, given that polls show increasing public support for the idea, Niinistö said on Wednesday that it's no longer necessary to hold a public referendum on the issue.

Public opinion has shifted dramatically since Russia began its military offensive in Ukraine in February. A record-high 62% of Finns now favor NATO membership, according to media outlet YLE. Previous polls showed that a majority opposed joining the alliance. Finland shares a 1,340-kilometer (832-mile) land border with Russia.

Comment: If public support is so clear why not hold a referendum? Is it because actually, despite the relentless fearmongering, at least 40% of the public still do not want to join NATO and a yes vote is not be guaranteed? It's possible that presented with even just some of the risks associated with NATO membership, citizens would vote against it.

Stoltenberg has previously spoken of favorable prospects for Finland and Sweden being welcomed into NATO. "They are enhanced-opportunity partners," he said in January. "We have worked together with them, we have exercised together with them, we have trained together with them. They meet NATO standards in most areas."

Comment: The 'enhanced-opportunity' is solely the US and NATO's, Finns and Swedes have nothing to gain and everything to lose.

Moscow has said that NATO undermined Russian national security when it broke promises against expanding eastward after the Cold War ended in 1991. The bloc has added 14 members since 1999, and two former Soviet republics - Ukraine and Georgia - have made formal requests to join.

Chinese leaders have pointed to NATO's "Cold War mentality" as a root cause of the Ukraine crisis. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa last month said the war would have been avoided "if NATO had heeded the warnings from amongst its own leaders and officials over the years that its eastward expansion would lead to greater, not less, instability in the region."