Even though tendencies to grant Ukraine NATO membership have solidified over the course of Russia's war with the Eastern European country after amending its constitution with the corresponding goal in 2019, two other European nations might skip ahead in the queue. As CNBC reports, Finland is bound to announce its formal membership application in a matter of days following a surge of popular opinion in favor of joining the military alliance. Sweden, while careful of such declarations in the past and propagating military sovereignty for the last couple of years, is expected to follow suit on Sunday at the earliest. According to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, these applications will be subject to "minimum delay", although the ratification process itself might take a couple of months.
Even before the outbreak of the war, Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly brought up the topic of NATO, the European-North American military alliance, in connection with Ukraine. The country is currently one of three nations with a declared aspiration to join the treaty, something that Russia vehemently opposes. Russia continues to see Ukraine as an important part of its sphere of influence. Similar to Belarus, Ukraine holds geopolitical significance for Russia as a buffer state to the West, but it also regards the country as a major cultural and historical ally.
Ukraine’s declaration concerning NATO dates back as far as 2008 and is not expected to be acted upon anytime soon, but the greater context of the treaty’s expansion eastwards has been a thorn in Putin’s side for a long time. In December, he blasted the organization at his annual end-of-year press conference. “Any further NATO movement to the east is unacceptable", Putin was quoted. He has repeated his call for a ban of NATO expansions since, but to no avail. NATO’s declared open door policy included in its founding treaty is generally making membership an option for European sovereign nations. The organization that started out in 1949 among 12 nations has since then attracted new members, especially in the past two decades, from Eastern Europe and the Balkans.