Keynote speech by NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, participating in the Ottawa Conference on Security and Defence, organised by the Conference of Defence Associations (CDA).

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization also known as the North Atlantic Alliance (NATO) has formally invited Sweden and Finland to join the military bloc, in a blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Today, we have decided to invite Finland and Sweden to become members of NATO, and agreed to sign the Accession Protocols,” NATO said in a Wednesday statement.

The two countries made significant progress in joining the western military alliance on Tuesday, as Turkey dropped its objections to their membership and NATO announced that the three countries signed an agreement to let the membership process proceed.

But there are more steps that need to happen before they can be members. Indeed, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called the agreement one “that paves the way for Finland and Sweden to join NATO.”

Countries that seek to join NATO are typically invited to start talks with the bloc about any reforms they need to make, and they are then invited to join the “Membership Action Plan,” which NATO describes as “a programme which helps nations prepare for possible future membership.”

The parliaments of all of NATO’s current members then need to approve the countries’ joining.

Stoltenberg on Tuesday said he was “absolutely confident” that the two nations would become members.

Stoltenberg has also previously offered to try and speed up their membership efforts, which means some of the steps that countries normally go through may be hurried.

Both Finland and Sweden need the unanimous support of all of NATO’s current members to be able to join the alliance.

Turkey had held out on supporting their membership, accusing the countries of supporting Kurdish militias.

NATO’s secretary-general said that both Sweden and Finland agreed to drop their restrictions on selling Turkey weapons and that Sweden agreed to increase work to extradite suspected militants to Turkey. 

Sweden and Finland moved away from decades of neutrality to pursue NATO membership after Russia invaded Ukraine. They both first applied to join in May.