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Latvia’s parliament could approve NATO membership for Finland and Sweden within hours if the two Nordic countries apply to join the alliance, the Latvian prime minister said on Wednesday.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Krišjānis Kariņš said that if Finland and Sweden decided to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, it would be a boost “not only for their own security, but also for regional security”.

“If they applied for NATO membership, I’m sure our parliament would meet if it was early enough on the day to ratify,” he said. “I think across NATO there would be a very quick process.”

Despite Russian threats of consequences if Finland and Sweden were part of the alliance, there are indications that the two countries could do so.

Last week, the Finnish parliament started debating the issue. Sweden’s ruling Social Democratic Party, long opposed to membership, is also holding membership deliberations.

If applications for NATO membership arrive in the coming weeks, it would pave the way for the alliance to potentially endorse their applications at its Madrid summit in late June. All 30 members should approve a request.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said any membership applications would likely be approved quickly for Finland and Sweden and that alliance members might be prepared to offer some kind of security guarantees while the membership process continued.

Before invading Ukraine, Russia had asked Washington and NATO to agree to rule out any further expansion of the alliance.

In recent months, the Latvian government approved a new defense spending target of 2.5% of gross domestic product and the country of around two million people donated some 200 million euros, or $211 million , in military aid to Ukraine, said Mr. Kariņš. .

Mr Kariņš said he was working around the clock ahead of the June NATO summit in Madrid to persuade his colleagues to endorse a strengthened permanent presence on the alliance’s eastern flank.

“We are absolutely heading in the right direction,” Kariņš said. “But we have to go the extra mile and we all have to understand that a solid, permanent and powerful presence is an absolute necessity.”

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