The 30 NATO allies have signed off on the accession protocols for Sweden and Finland, sending the membership bids of the two countries to the alliance capitals for legislative approval, in a historic step brought on by Russia's unprovoked war in Ukraine.
"This is a good day for Finland and Sweden and a good day for NATO," alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg told reporters in a joint press statement with the Swedish and Finnish foreign ministers on July 5.
"With 32 nations around the table, we will be even stronger and our people will be even safer as we face the biggest security crisis in decades," he added.
The historic shifts by Sweden and Finland came in the face of Russia's brutal invasion of Ukraine in February and other aggressive moves by the Kremlin in the region. Public opinion in the Nordic countries quickly turned in favor of NATO membership following the invasion.
Every alliance member has different legislative challenges and procedures to deal with, and it could take several more months for the two to become official members.
"I look forward to a swift ratification process," Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said.
"Thank you for your support! Now the process of ratification by each of the allies begins," Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde said on Twitter.
Ankara initially said it would veto their bids, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accusing them of providing havens for Kurdish militants operating in Turkey and for promoting what he called "terrorism."
Following negotiations, Erdogan said he would drop his objections but indicated he could still block their membership bids if they failed to follow through on promises, some of which were undisclosed.