Finland to apply for NATO membership, says president

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto.

frank augstein | Reuters

Finland will apply for NATO membership, the country’s president said on Sunday, in a historic move for the Nordic country, which has had a policy of military neutrality for decades.

At a press conference together with Prime Minister Sanna Marin, President Sauli Niinisto said: “Today, we, the president and the government’s foreign policy committee, have decided together that Finland… will apply for NATO membership.” .

He added that being a member of the military alliance would “maximize” Finland’s security after Russia’s unprecedented invasion of Ukraine in February.

Marin described that move to apply as an “important decision” based on a “strong mandate.”

“We expect parliament to confirm the decision to apply for NATO membership in the coming days,” he added. The formal application is expected to be submitted next week.

Finland shares an 830-mile border with Russia; if it joins the military alliance, the land border Russia shares with NATO territories would roughly double.

As such, there is a risk that the move from Helsinki will provoke aggression from Russia, where President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly voiced his opposition to NATO enlargement.

President Niinisto said he had spoken with Putin on Saturday and briefed him on Finland’s decision.

Last week, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Finland’s NATO membership would be a “sea change” in the country’s foreign policy. “Russia will be forced to take retaliatory measures, both military-technical and otherwise, to prevent threats to its national security from emerging,” it said in a statement.

Marin said Finland has been in close contact with NATO and its members about the decision. Last week, Marin and Niinisto said the country should apply to join NATO “without delay.”

Turkey objected

One potential hurdle on the horizon is Turkey, the NATO member with the second-largest military after the US. Accession of a new member state requires consensus approval by all existing members.

The country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said on Thursday: “We have no positive views” on the possible membership of Finland and Sweden. Sweden is expected to follow Finland and also apply to join NATO in the near future.

The previous Sunday, NATO’s deputy secretary general was confident about the possibility of Finland and Sweden joining the group.

Speaking to reporters in Berlin, Mircea Geoana said the two countries were already NATO’s closest partners.

“I am sure that if these two countries decide, in the next few days, as I understand it, to seek membership in NATO, that [we] will be able to welcome them and find all the conditions for reaching consensus,” he said.

On Turkey, Geoana added: “They expressed concerns that are addressed and discussed among friends and allies.”

This is breaking news and will be updated shortly.

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