The security policies of Sweden and Finland have changed more in the past six weeks than they have over the past six decades. In much of what they do, the two countries come as a pair. Their defense cooperation has deepened since Russia’s invasion of Crimea. Now, the two appear poised to break with their long history of non-alignment.

Their applications to join the North Atlantic Treaty could come in time for NATO’s summit in Madrid in late June. At a press conference in Stockholm this week, the Swedish and Finnish prime ministers  — Magdalena Andersson and Sarin Marin — stopped short of announcing that they want their countries to join the Western military alliance.

“This is an important time in history,” Ms. Andersson, speaking alongside Ms. Marin, said. “The security landscape has completely changed.”

The gravity of such a declaration cannot be overstated. Sweden has been neutral since the time of the Napoleonic wars. Its non-alignment has long been a source of pride. The Finnish case is more complicated, not least owing to its geography. The country became independent from Russia in 1917 and after its war with the Soviet Union between 1939 and 1940 was ostensibly forced into isolation.

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