Finland says will apply for NATO membership “without delay”

Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin said Thursday that the Nordic country will apply to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization “without delay” amid the deepening crisis following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In a joint statement, the Finnish leaders said that steps to join the 30-member military alliance would be taken “rapidly within the next few days,” in a move that will almost certainly be opposed by Russia, with which Finland shares a land border and has long held neutral relations.

The move comes as Swedish media reported Thursday that Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson indicated that her country would also apply for NATO membership as early as Monday and begin application procedures immediately, with the developments certain to heighten tensions in northern Europe.

Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto makes a point during a joint press conference with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the Presidential Palace on May 11, 2022 in Helsinki, Finland. (Getty/Kyodo)

The Finnish leaders’ statement, saying NATO membership would strengthen the country’s security, suggested there was no major opposition to the move in Finland’s parliament.

Finland is expected to apply for membership before a NATO summit in Spain in late June. If approved, it will come under the alliance’s collective defense framework, meaning Finland will be an ally and can be assisted and defended by other allies if it comes under attack.

Public opinion in Finland has also swayed in favor of joining NATO following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday that Finland joining NATO would pose a threat to Russia “without a doubt,” according to the Tass news agency.

“Another expansion of NATO does not make our continent more stable and safe,” Peskov was quoted as saying. But he also said, “All will depend on what this process of expansion will imply. To what extent the military infrastructure will get closer to our borders.”

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin (R) speaks at a seminar in Tokyo on May 11, 2022. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

All 30 NATO members must ratify the application for a new country to join the alliance, with some expecting the process could take up to a year, spurring concern that Russia could take military action against Finland during that time.

Moscow has previously warned both Finland and Sweden that there would be military repercussions if they joined NATO, including the use of nuclear weapons.

Finland shares a 1,300-kilometer border with Russia and was previously invaded by the country’s predecessor state, the Soviet Union, during World War II and has since maintained neutrality.

Although not NATO members, both Finland and Sweden joined the European Union in 1995.

Related coverage:

Japan, Finland condemn Russian aggression, agree on resolute action

Finland more open to NATO entry in wake of Russia’s actions: minister

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