How long does it take to join NATO? Timeline in full as Sweden and Finland apply

Putin ‘shot himself in the foot’ with Nordic NATO applications

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NATO could soon gain two new members, Sweden and Finland, neighbouring Nordic nations in Vladimir Putin’s direct line of sight. Both countries have spent the last few weeks in near lockstep as they deliberated a response to the Russian premier’s invasion of Ukraine. While their applications will soon be in writing, the process is neither fast nor guaranteed.

How long does it take to join NATO?

NATO’s current roster of 30 countries is the product of decades of international networking, with the most recent nation – North Macedonia – joining in 2020.

Each of those nations underwent similar, but not identical, applications that varied in process and length.

Sweden and Finland have embarked on their first step: the application stage.

Nominated ministers will take charge of the application, which they usually deliver in a letter to a NATO representative.

The next step is the most crucial, with every sitting member of the North Atlantic Council (NAC) required to give their assent.

They consider new applications at an ambassadorial level, usually during summits.

The meetings aim to analyse how the aspirant nations align with existing members.

Subjects discussed may include legal, political and military standards.

NAC meetings are a make and break moment for aspiring members, as their would-be colleagues could decide to reject them.

They require unanimous support, and two countries – Turkey and Croatia – have already threatened to bar them.

The international community will have to wait until the Madrid summit between June 29 to 30 to hear their initial ruling.

Success at this stage would bring Sweden and Finland to accession talks.

These can take days, and will see NATO officials ask the countries commit to upholding Article 5 of the Washington Treaty.

The treaty – which has only ever been invoked once following 9/11 – asks countries to commit to “collective defence”.

If one member is attacked, Article 5 compels every other signatory to come to its aid.

They will also need to commit approximately $2.5 billion (£2 billion) to fund the organisation.

The aspiring countries will need to outline their agreement to the terms in an official letter.

The country’s letter and official report of discussions go back to the NAC for final consideration.

Once they receive their final decision, a small-scale ceremony will initiate them into the organisation.

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