Finland and Sweden have agreed to both apply for NATO membership next month, local media outlets from the two Scandinavian countries reported on Monday.
According to the Finnish newspaper Iltalehti, Sweden suggested the two countries "indicate their willingness" to join the Western military alliance on the same day and Finland agreed "as long as the Swedish government has made its decision."
The Swedish newspaper Expressen later cited Swedish government sources who confirmed the Iltalehti report. Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin and her Swedish counterpart, Magdalena Andersson, are set to meet during the week of May 16 and are expected to announce their intention to seek a NATO membership after that.
However, following the reports Finland tried to reign in speculation on a specific timetable:
Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto has said it would be "useful" for Sweden and Finland to launch joint Nato membership bids.
But he said that no fixed date had been set for any potential application.
The comments came as Nordic media reported the countries could launch a simultaneous bid to join the security bloc next month.
Earlier this month, Marin and Andersson met in Stockholm to discuss the possibility of joining NATO, a discussion prompted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. After the meeting, Marin said Finland would decide on whether to apply to join NATO in "weeks, not months".
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said he believes all 30 members of the military alliance would welcome Sweden and Finland. "If they decide to apply, I expect that all allies will welcome them," Stoltenberg said in early April. "We know that they can easily join this alliance if they decide to apply."
Separately on Monday, the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet reported that Sweden had received promises from the US and Britain of an increased military presence in the region and "strong political support" from NATO members during the application process.
Sweden and Finland joining NATO would significantly increase tensions with Russia in the region as Moscow has warned it will bolster its forces along the over 800-mile border it shares with Finland. Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who now serves as the deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, has hinted Russia could deploy nuclear and hypersonic missiles in response.