Finland will apply for NATO membership, says President

Finland will apply for NATO membership, says President

Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin (L) and President Sauli Niinisto.

Heikki Saukkoa AFP | Getty Images

Finland will apply for NATO membership, the country’s president said on Sunday, in a historic move for the Nordic country that has maintained a decades-old policy of military neutrality.

In a press conference alongside Prime Minister Sanna Marin, President Sauli Niinisto said: “Today we, the President and the Government’s Foreign Affairs Committee, jointly decided that Finland … will apply for NATO membership.”

He added that membership in the military alliance will “maximize” Finland’s security after Russia’s unprecedented invasion of Ukraine in February.

Marin described this motion as an “important decision” based on a “strong mandate”.

“We hope that in the coming days Parliament will confirm the decision on the application for NATO membership,” she added. The formal application is expected to be submitted next week.

Marin said Finland is in close contact with NATO and its members about the decision. Last week, Marin and Niinisto said the country should apply to join NATO “immediately.”

“Radical change” in politics

Finland shares an 830-mile border with Russia; If it joins the military alliance, the land border that Russia shares with NATO territories would roughly double.

Therefore, there is a risk that the move from Helsinki could trigger aggression from Russia, where President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly expressed his opposition to NATO expansion.

Finland’s Niinisto said he spoke to Putin on Saturday and informed him of his country’s decision.

Last week, Russia’s foreign ministry said Finland’s entry into NATO marked a “radical change” in the country’s foreign policy. “Russia will be forced to use both military-technical and other retaliatory measures to stop threats to its national security,” the statement said.

Russia has land borders with 14 countries and five of them are NATO members: Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland and Norway.

Finland has reviewed its security policy after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which showed the Kremlin is ready to attack a neighboring nation. Finland has been invaded in the past – in 1939 the Soviet Union attacked Finland in the so-called Winter War.

opposition from Turkey

A potential stumbling block for Finland to join the alliance is Turkey, the NATO member with the second-biggest military after the US

The rise of a new member state requires the consent of all existing members by consensus.

The country’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday: “We have no positive views” on the possible membership of Finland and Sweden. Sweden is expected to follow Finland and also apply to join NATO in the near future.

Earlier on Sunday, NATO’s Deputy Secretary General struck a optimistic tone about Finland and Sweden possibly joining the group.

Speaking to reporters in Berlin, Mircea Geoana said the two countries are already NATO’s closest partners.

“I am confident that if these two countries decide in the next few days to seek NATO membership, that [we] will be able to welcome them and find all the conditions for a consensus,” he said.

On Turkey, Geoana added: “You have raised concerns that are being raised and discussed between friends and allies.”

NATO – or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – was formed in 1949 by the US, Canada and several Western European nations to provide collective security against the ancestor of modern Russia, the Soviet Union.

From its inception, the Alliance had a difficult relationship with the Soviet Union during the Cold War and with the Russian Federation after its collapse in 1991.

CNBC’s Natasha Turak contributed to this report

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