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Olaf Scholz, Germany’s chancellor, speaks at the Bundestag in Berlin, Germany, on April 6, 2022.

Olaf Scholz, Germany’s chancellor, speaks at the Bundestag in Berlin, Germany, on April 6, 2022. (Liesa Johannssen-Koppitz/Bloomberg)

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz pledged his support for a potential bid from Sweden and Finland to join the NATO defense alliance as a response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Scholz hosted the prime ministers of the two Nordic nations at a cabinet retreat near Berlin Tuesday and said his government is closely following their debate on membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

“For us it’s clear,” Scholz told reporters in a joint appearance with Swedish Premier Magdalena Andersson and their Finnish counterpart Sanna Marin. “If these two countries should decide they want to belong to NATO then they can count on our support.”

He sought to calm fears about the security risk on the path to membership, saying that as fellow Europeans, Sweden and Finland can “in any case always count on Germany’s support, independently of NATO membership and also during the period before it’s decided within NATO.”

Finland and Sweden are poised to choose whether to apply to join the defense bloc, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February caused a major shift in public opinion in favor of NATO in both countries. Finland is expected to take the step before May 17 -- and as soon as next week -- while Sweden’s stance is less clear.

Speaking alongside Scholz and Andersson, Marin said that Russia’s aggression against its neighbor has “changed our security environment completely” and there was “no going back.”

“Russia has made it very clear that it is not committed to the fundamental principles of European security, nor international law,” she added. “As Russia wrongly claimed the right to dictate the choices of others, NATO’s ‘Open Door’ policy is even more important for us all.”

Andersson was more circumspect, outlining that her government and parties represented in the Swedish parliament were in the process of analyzing the nation’s security policy, the results of which will be presented on May 13.

“The analysis includes future international defense partnerships for Sweden, including a discussion on NATO, and all options are on the table,” she said. “Sweden is, as other countries, adapting to the new circumstances.”

Before full membership brings the two countries under the umbrella of collective security, the interim period between putting in their bid and being accepted by lawmakers in NATO’s 30 member countries is fraught with dangers, policymakers have warned.

Sweden has observed that Russia uses two contrasting narratives on the two nations’ aspirations, Foreign Minister Ann Linde said last month.

On the one hand Russia repeatedly warns that they face “consequences” if they join, but on the other Moscow downplays the importance of whether NATO has 30 or 32 members, she said.

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