Russia’s neighbor Finland announces its desire to join NATO


Berlin (AFP) – Finland announced on Sunday its desire to join NATO, with a senior official in the western military alliance expressing hope that – with Russia’s military progress faltering – Ukraine can win the war.

President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin announced that Finland will seek NATO membership during a joint press conference at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki. The formerly neutral Scandinavian country shares a long border with Russia.

“This is a historic day. A new era begins,” Niinistö said.

The Finnish parliament is expected to ratify the decision in the coming days. The official membership application will then be submitted to NATO headquarters in Brussels, most likely sometime next week.

The announcement came as senior diplomats from the 30 NATO member states met in Berlin to discuss more support for Ukraine and moves by Finland, Sweden and other countries to join NATO in the face of threats from Russia.

“The brutal invasion of Russia is losing momentum,” NATO Deputy Secretary-General Mircea Giwana told reporters early Sunday.

“We know that with the courage of the Ukrainian people and army and with our help, Ukraine can win this war,” he said.

Jiwana, who was chairing the meeting while NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is recovering from COVID-19 infection, Ukraine’s supporters “are united, we are strong, and we will continue to help Ukraine win this war.”

Sweden has already taken steps towards joining the alliance, while try Georgia Again, despite urgent warnings from Moscow about the consequences if its neighbor becomes part of NATO.

“Finland and Sweden are already the closest partners to NATO,” Giwana said, adding that he expected allies to view their requests favorably.

Norway, a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in the Nordic countries, said it very much welcomed Finland’s decision to seek membership. Norwegian Foreign Minister Anneken Hoetfeldt described Helsinki’s move as a “turning point” for defense and security policies in the Nordic region.

“Finnish membership in NATO would be good for Finland, good for the Nordic region, and good for NATO. Finland has Norway’s full support,” Hoytfeldt said in comments emailed to the Associated Press.

Hoytfeldt said the Norwegian government would facilitate the “rapid approval of the Norwegian Parliament’s ratification” of Finland’s accession to NATO.

We are now witnessing unprecedented unity in NATO. “With Finnish membership, we will further strengthen the Scandinavian wing of the military alliance,” said Heuitfeldt.

Germany’s foreign minister, Annallina Barbock, said her country and others made it clear during a dinner late on Saturday that they were ready to speed up the national ratification process for Finland and Sweden.

“If these two countries decide to join, they can join very quickly,” she said.

The Danish foreign minister rejected suggestions that Objections from Russian President Vladimir Putin It can hinder the alliance from allowing new members.

“Every European country has a fundamental right to choose its own security arrangements,” Djebi Kofod told reporters.

“We now see a world where Putin is the number one enemy of democracy and the thinking he represents,” he said, adding that NATO would also stand with other countries, such as Georgia, which he said were “exploited” by Russia. .

On the sidelines of the meeting, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken met earlier Sunday with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba to discuss the impact of the war and how to get Ukrainian grain to international markets.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said Blinken “emphasized the United States’ enduring commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s unprovoked war.”

Britain’s top diplomat said NATO members would also discuss security issues outside Europe during their meeting on Sunday – a sign of growing concern among democracies about China’s rise.

“In addition to protecting Euro-Atlantic security, we also need to pay attention to the security of the Indo-Pacific,” said Secretary of State Liz Truss.

The meeting follows a meeting of foreign ministers from the Group of Seven major nations on Germany’s Baltic coast this week. Officials there expressed strong support for Ukraine and warned that Russia was imposing a blockade on grain exports from Ukrainian ports. The risks of fueling the global food crisis.

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Tanner reported from Helsinki. Associated Press diplomatic writer Matthew Lee contributed from Berlin.

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Follow the Associated Press’ coverage of the war on https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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