Finland’s leaders announce support for NATO accession

The declaration of support for NATO from President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin was expected after the Finnish government recently submitted a national security report to the country’s parliament, outlining the path to joining the alliance as one of Finland’s options. outlined.

In the joint statement, Niinisto and Marin said: “NATO membership would strengthen Finland’s security. As a member of NATO, Finland would strengthen the entire defense alliance. Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay. We hope that the national steps necessary to make this decision will be taken quickly in the coming days.”

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, public support for NATO accession in Finland has risen in some polls from about 30% to nearly 80%.

Once parliament has approved the idea in principle and all other domestic legal hurdles have been cleared, NATO is expected to invite Finland to negotiate its accession.

It is also expected that Sweden, Finland’s western neighbour, will soon announce its intention to join the alliance through a similar process.

Russia warned both countries against joining NATO, saying there would be consequences.

European diplomats and security officials generally believe that Finland could quickly join the alliance once negotiations begin, given that it has been purchasing military hardware compatible with its Western allies, including the US, for decades and already meets many of the requirements. criteria for membership.

Finland’s entry into NATO would have both practical and symbolic implications for Russia and the Western alliance.

Since the end of World War II, Finland has been militarily non-aligned and nominally neutral not to provoke Russia. It has at times caved in to the Kremlin’s security concerns and has tried to maintain good trade ties.

However, the war in Ukraine has changed the calculation enough that joining NATO now seems the best way forward, regardless of Russia’s response.

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European defense officials who have spoken with CNN in recent months assume that NATO countries will offer some guarantees over Finland’s security during the accession process, in case Russia retaliates before formally joining.

On Wednesday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced new security pacts with Finland and Sweden, pledging to come to the aid of both countries if one of them were attacked.

Finland has traditionally had high defense expenditures and still has a conscription policy whereby all adult males can be drafted into military service. It is widely recognized among NATO officials that Finland’s accession to the alliance would be a major impetus in countering Russian aggression, due to how seriously the country has treated its own security in the past.

It also shares more than 800 miles of the border with Russia, which is important given that, before invading Ukraine, the Kremlin stated that it wanted to see NATO roll back its borders to where they were in the 1990s.

Instead, President Vladimir Putin’s move could lead to a stronger NATO moving closer.

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