Finland Moves to Join NATO ‘Without Delay’ After Invasion of Ukraine

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On Thursday, Finland’s leaders said Finland should seek immediate membership in NATO, in a bid to end seven decades outside the Western military bloc in response to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Finland’s entry would add significant fighting power to the alliance while also deepening the East-West divisions that have consumed Europe since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24. Neighboring Sweden is expected to announce its offer to NATO soon.

Moscow said Finland’s accession, which would add hundreds of miles to NATO’s shared border with Russia, would threaten its security. Kremlin spokesman Dmitriy Peksov said that Finnish membership may require new measures by Russia “to balance the situation”.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin announced their positions after weeks of internal deliberations, and said the militarily nonaligned nation should “apply for NATO membership without delay.”

And they said in a statment. The decision, which must be approved by the Finnish parliament, is expected to be finalized in the coming days.

Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said President Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine has changed the security situation not only in Finland. “The war started by Russia threatens the security and stability of all of Europe,” he told European lawmakers.

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It was not immediately clear what steps NATO countries might take to protect Finland and Sweden from any Russian retaliation until they are formally placed under the NATO common defense umbrella, a process Western officials have said could be completed by the time the alliance’s leaders meet. Spain in late June.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday announced new measures to bolster the security of Finland and Sweden, including greater intelligence sharing and joint training.

NATO countries are increasing the flow of weapons and other aid to leaders in Kyiv, in an accelerated effort to help Ukraine fend off Russia’s brutal onslaught. At the same time, the United States and its allies led efforts to impose punitive sanctions on Russia, bringing Moscow’s relations with the West to their worst point since the Cold War.

Putin has long cited NATO’s eastward expansion—from its founding group of 12 countries in 1949, all from Western Europe and North America, to its 30 members today, including a group of former Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact states—as a major threat to Russian security.

“NATO expansion does not make our continent more stable and secure,” Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted Peskov as telling reporters on Thursday. “NATO is moving in our direction,” he said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry called the decision a “radical change” in Finland’s foreign policy, saying that it contradicted the non-aligned position that – according to the ministry – served Moscow and Helsinki well.

Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of the Russian Security Council and former Russian president, said that NATO support for Ukraine, along with military exercises in countries bordering Russia, “increases the possibility of direct and open conflict.”

“This type of conflict always runs the risk of turning into a full-fledged nuclear war,” Medvedev said.

The foreign ministry said Russia “will be forced to take retaliatory steps, whether of a military-technical or other nature”.

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In addition to fueling support in the Nordic countries to join NATO, the Russian invasion also pushed countries in the former Soviet sphere to move closer to the West. Both Ukraine and Moldova are now actively seeking EU membership.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg predicted that Finland’s accession process “will be smooth and fast,” according to Reuters. “Finland is one of NATO’s closest partners, a mature democracy, a member of the European Union, and an important contributor to Euro-Atlantic security,” he said.

In capitals of the European Union and other NATO countries, the Finnish leaders’ statement was welcomed with expressions of support and promises to keep the application process as short as possible.

On Thursday, Swedish Foreign Minister Anne Linde said her country should “take it up”. [the Finnish] taking into account evaluations’ when making its decision on NATO membership. Swedish tabloid Expressen mentioned Sweden’s decision on joining the defense alliance could come as soon as Monday, citing unnamed sources.

Now that Finnish leaders have expressed support for the NATO membership application, the Ministerial Committee on Foreign and Security Policy will meet with the Finnish president to make a formal decision on whether or not the country should submit an application, and then submit a proposal to lawmakers. And the Agence France-Presse, quoting the Finnish newspaper Ilality, reported that the committee is scheduled to meet on Sunday.

The Finnish Parliament Defense Committee has already recommended joining NATO, while The major parliamentary parties They also expressed their support for a military alliance. Lee Andersson, head of the Left Alliance in the Finnish parliament, which has been plagued by internal disagreements over the possibility of NATO membership, wrote that she was ready to support him.

Jacqueline Besser, Andrew Jeong and Kim Belware contributed to this report.