Finland must apply for Nato membership without delay, president declares

Finland‘s president and prime minister said the nation must apply for Nato membership without delay.

Speaking on Thursday the leaders said they are in favor of applying for Nato membership, paving the way for the alliance to expand amid Russia‘s war in Ukraine.

The announcement by president Sauli Niinisto and prime minister Sanna Marin means Finland is virtually certain to seek Nato membership though a few steps remain before the application process can begin. Neighboring Sweden is expected to decide on joining Nato in coming days.

Finland shares a border with Russia

(PA Graphics)

“Now that the moment of decision-making is near, we state our equal views, also for information to the parliamentary groups and parties,” Mr Niinisto and Marin said in a joint statement. “Nato membership would strengthen Finland’s security.”

“As a member of Nato, Finland would strengthen the entire defence alliance,” they said. “Finland must apply for Nato membership without delay. We hope that the national steps still needed to make this decision will be taken rapidly within the next few days.”

Finland, which shares a 1,300km border with Russia, has gradually been stepping up its cooperation with Nato since the Kremlin annexed Crimea in 2014.

But until Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Nordic country had refrained from joining in order to maintain friendly relations with its eastern neighbour.

Speaking after signing a new military pact with the UK during Boris Johnson’s visit, Mr Niinisto said he did not view joining the military alliance as a “zero sum game”.

“Joining Nato would not be against anybody,” the Finnish president said. After the meeting, Downing Street said the two leaders agreed that “Putin’s invasion had dramatically changed the landscape of European security”.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, left, and Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto arrive to meet the media

(Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

The prime minister said the parallel agreements with both Sweden and Finland would help defend each country should it come under threat as he met with leaders in both nations. Mr Johnson said the UK would come to Finland’s assistance, including with military support, in the event of an attack on the country.

Asked during a press conference in Helsinki alongside Finnish president Sauli Niinisto if there would be “British boots on the ground” on Finnish territory during a “possible conflict with Russia”, he said: “I think the solemn declaration is itself clear.

“And what it says is that in the event of a disaster, or in the event of an attack on either of us, then yes, we will come to each other’s assistance, including with military assistance.

Denmark will push for a quick Nato admission process of Finland, prime minister Mette Frederiksen said on Thursday after Finland signaled it would apply for membership of the military alliance “without delay”.

“Denmark will of course warmly welcome Finland to Nato. (It) will strengthen Nato and our common security,” Ms Frederiksen said on Twitter. “Denmark will do everything for a quick admission process after the formal application.”

Finnish support for joining Nato has increased since the Ukraine war started

(Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Finnish public support for joining Nato has risen to record numbers over recent months, with the latest poll by public broadcaster YLE showing 76 per cent of Finns in favour and only 12 per cent against, while support for membership used to linger at only around 25 per cent for years prior to the war in Ukraine.

While military non-alignment has long satisfied many Finns as a way of staying out of conflicts, Russia’s invasion of sovereign Ukraine has led an increasing number of them to view friendly relations with Russia as an empty phrase.

Sweden’s ruling Social Democrats are expected to decide on Sunday whether to overturn decades of opposition to Nato membership, a move that would almost certainly lead to Sweden also asking to join the 30-nation alliance.

Russia has repeatedly warned both countries against joining the alliance. As recently as 12 March its foreign ministry said “there will be serious military and political consequences” if they do.

Moscow has warned Nato that if Sweden and Finland join the military alliance Russia would have to strengthen its defences in the region, with a threat to deploy nuclear weapons in the Baltic.

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