Finland formally declared its desire to join NATO in a move likely to enrage the Kremlin and which comes as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine appears to be faltering.
President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin made the announcement during a joint news conference in Helsinki. The long-neutral nation shares an 830-mile-long border with Russia, which has spooked neighboring nations with its attack on Ukraine.
“This is a historic day,” Niinsto said. “A new era begins.”
Finland confirms it is applying to join NATO to 'maximise' country's security https://t.co/nC6smAsGxI
— Sky News (@SkyNews) May 15, 2022
A formal application to the Brussels-based defensive alliance could come as soon as next week, once the Finnish Parliament ratifies the decision. The move is both an affirmation of the western world’s condemnation of Moscow’s invasion and evidence non-NATO countries believe they may need protection from a bellicose Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“The brutal invasion (by) Russia is losing momentum,” NATO Deputy-Secretary General Mircea Geoana told reporters Sunday.
Sweden has also expressed interest in joining NATO. The countries have long been seen as partners, or allies, of the 30-member alliance, though not full members.
“Finland and Sweden are already the closest partners of NATO,” Geoana said.
Norway, another Nordic nation, is already a NATO member. Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt said Finland’s desire to join NATO was a “a turning point” for the region’s long-term security.
“Finnish membership in NATO will be good for Finland, good for the Nordic region, and good for NATO. Finland has Norway’s full support,” Huitfeldt told The Associated Press.
Huitfeldt said the Norwegian government will support “a swift consent to ratification by the Norwegian Parliament” for Finland’s accession into NATO.
“We are now seeing unprecedented unity in NATO. With the Finnish membership, we will further strengthen the Nordic flank of the military alliance,” Huitfeldt said.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said her country and others have agreed to fast-track the national ratification process for both Finland and Sweden.
“If these two countries are deciding to join, they can join very quickly,” she said.
While Putin has not specifically threatened Finland over its prospective NATO membership, the Russian foreign ministry has warned it will retaliate. Russia has already suspended supplying electrical power to Finland, which depended on its neighbor for 10% of its needs.
NATO was founded in 1949 to counter the threat from the Soviet Union. Putin has complained that it is encroaching on his country, and blamed Ukraine’s desire to join as one of the reasons for the ongoing invasion.