- Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and Prime Minister Sanna Marin have spoken out in favor of their country joining NATO.
- In a joint statement on Thursday, the two endorsed membership in the western military alliance.
- It is now expected that Finland will decide to apply for membership in the coming days.
The change in the neutral country was triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “Finland must immediately apply for NATO membership,” Niinistö and Marin said in their joint statement. This would strengthen Finland’s security and the entire alliance at the same time, declared the Nordic country’s two most important politicians.
The Russian leadership sees Finland’s desire for NATO membership as a threat to Russia. An expansion of the Western military alliance will not make Europe and the world more stable, the spokesman for the Russian Presidential Office, Dmitry Peskov, told the press in a conference call. The step is regrettable and a reason for a corresponding reaction. Russia is ready to give the strongest response to any party trying to get involved in Ukraine and obstruct the special military operation.
Finland has a 1300 km border and a troubled past with Russia. Even after the Second World War, the country remained neutral so as not to strain relations with the then Soviet Union and then Russia. However, as a member of the EU, Finland is already integrated into some common military structures.
The EU’s northernmost country is expected to decide on a formal application for membership on Sunday. Before the country can join NATO, all 30 current members must agree. NATO promised Finland a quick admission on Thursday. “The accession process would run smoothly and quickly,” said Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. “You would be warmly welcomed into NATO,” he said.
Niinistö and Marin’s government decide together on the NATO issue, but they involved parliament in the decision-making process. On the way to a decision, the government submitted a security analysis to the Riksdag in Helsinki in April, in which the advantages and risks of NATO membership are highlighted. However, the analysis did not include a position for or against such a membership.
Finland and neighboring Sweden are already close partners of NATO, but have not yet become official members. However, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sparked an intense NATO debate in both countries.
The population is in favor of joining NATO
In the population there was a clear change of opinion towards a possible accession to the alliance. In a recent poll by the Finnish broadcaster Yle, 76 percent of respondents were in favor of Finland joining NATO.
The Finnish announcement is now increasing the pressure on Sweden to make a timely decision on NATO membership. The ruling Social Democrats want to make a decision on their own position on Sunday. Finally, on Tuesday and Wednesday, Niinistö is with the Swedish King Carl XVI. Gustaf visiting Stockholm.