The US-led military bloc has formally invited Sweden and Finland to join
NATO has officially invited previously non-aligned Sweden and Finland to join its ranks.
"Today, we have decided to invite Finland and Sweden to become members of NATO, and agreed to sign the Accession Protocols," the military bloc said in a statement on Wednesday during its summit in Madrid, Spain.
The two Nordic states decided to ditch their longstanding tradition of nominal neutrality after Russia sent troops into Ukraine in late February.
Shortly before the invitation was announced, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg described the route of Sweden and Finland towards membership as "unprecedented."
The decision to admit the two Nordic nations must now be approved by the parliaments of all 30 member states.
"That always takes some time. But I [also] expect that to go rather quickly," Stoltenberg said, adding that the bloc is "ready" to have the ratification done as soon as possible.
Sweden and Finland signed an agreement with Turkey on Tuesday that paves the way for the invitation. Ankara had previously said it would block their membership, accusing the Nordic states of harboring people with links to Kurdish organizations, which Turkey considers terrorist groups.
Russian President Vladimir Putin cited NATO's expansion eastward and attempts to establish "a foothold" in Ukraine as one of the reasons for the conflict in the country.