Sweden decided on Monday to emulate neighboring Finland and apply for NATO membership, ending more than two centuries of military nonalignment in a historic shift sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The decision drew strong objections from Turkey, a key NATO member, which has said the two countries should not be allowed to join the alliance because they have been too lax in acting against Kurdish militants.

You can only join NATO if all current members agree.

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson warned that the Nordic country would be in a “vulnerable position” during the application period, and urged her fellow citizens to prepare for the Russian response.

“Russia has said that it will retaliate if we enter NATO,” he said. “We cannot rule out that Sweden is exposed, for example, to misinformation and attempts to intimidate and divide us.”

Sweden’s decision was announced a day after the country’s ruling Social Democratic party endorsed a plan for Sweden to join the transatlantic alliance and the Finnish government announced it would seek to join the 30-nation military alliance.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday toughened his objection to Sweden and Finland joining NATO, accusing them of failing to take a “clear” stance against Kurdish militants and other groups his country views as terrorists, and of imposing military sanctions. to turquia.

Erdogan also accused the two countries of refusing to extradite “terrorists” wanted by his country.

“Neither of the two countries has an open and clear position against terrorist organizations,” Erdogan said. “During this process, we cannot say ‘yes’ to those who impose sanctions against Turkey to be admitted to NATO, which is a security organization.”

Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist told public broadcaster SVT that a Swedish delegation would be sent to Ankara to discuss the matter.

Moscow has repeatedly warned Finland, which shares a 1,340-kilometre (830-mile) border with Russia, and Sweden about the repercussions of joining NATO. But Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared to downplay the possibility on Monday.

Speaking before a military alliance of six former Soviet republics, Putin said that Moscow “has no problem” with Sweden or Finland applying for NATO membership, but that “the expansion of the military infrastructure in this territory will of course lead to to our reaction.”

Andersson, who heads the center-left Social Democrats, said Sweden would submit its NATO application together with Finland.

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