After Finland announced it would submit its application, the Russian ministry of defense warned that “Russia will be forced to take retaliatory steps, both of a military-technical and other nature, in order to stop the threats to its national security arising in this regard.”
On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin hosted Swedish defense minister Peter Hultqvist at the Pentagon, where they discussed ways the United States might offer protection during the weeks or months—or even years—while the new applications are being considered.
Neither is guaranteed admission to the alliance, which requires unanimous approval by current members. Turkey has indicated it may oppose their admission.
“We’re still working with Turkey to clarify, so we understand their position,” on the NATO vote, a senior defense official told reporters at the Pentagon Wednesday.
Should Russia attack before Sweden and Finland are formally accepted, NATO would be under no obligation to defend them. That has prompted concern that both countries may need more support in the interim, especially if Turkey’s stated opposition to membership delays their campaigns to join.
“Clearly, we talked about this period of time between application and accession,” the senior defense official said. “We are putting our staff together to talk about, ‘Should there be security assurances that the Swedes would like, and what that would look like, and what we can do to help?”
“We have had that same level of discussion with Finland as well,” the official said, adding that one option could be expanding military exercises in Sweden.
Earlier Wednesday, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov said Russia’s war in Ukraine had become a war with NATO, many of whose members have sent aid and arms to Kyiv.
The U.S. has been the leading supplier of weapons to Ukraine. On Wednesday, the Pentagon said that hundreds of the more advanced systems it recently sent have been sent to combat units, including 200 Switchblade drones, “almost 10” of the new Phoenix Ghost drones, and 79 of the promised 90 howitzers, the latter of which are “providing long-range indirect fire.”
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