Finnish leaders announce support for NATO membership

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

In the joint statement, Niinisto and Marin said: “NATO membership would strengthen Finland’s security. As a NATO member, Finland would strengthen the entire defense alliance. Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay. We hope that national measures are still necessary to take this decision within a few days “.

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, public support for NATO membership in Finland has jumped from around 30% to nearly 80% in some polls.

Once parliament has approved the idea in principle and all other internal legislative obstacles have been removed, NATO is expected to invite Finland to negotiate its membership.

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

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

European diplomats and security officials widely believe that Finland could quickly join the alliance once negotiations begin, as it has purchased military hardware compatible with its Western allies, including the United States, for decades and already meets many of the criteria for it. membership.

Finland’s membership of NATO would have both practical and symbolic consequences for Russia and the Western alliance.

Since the end of World War II, Finland has been militarily non-aligned and nominally neutral to avoid provoking Russia. At times he indulged in the Kremlin’s security concerns and tried to maintain good trade relations.

The war in Ukraine, however, has changed the calculations sufficiently that NATO membership now seems the best way forward, regardless of what Russia’s reaction might be.

Finland is on the verge of applying to join NATO. That is why this is bad news for Putin

European defense officials who have spoken to CNN in recent months assume that NATO countries will offer some guarantees on 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 should one of them be attacked.

Finland has historically had high defense spending and still has a conscription policy, with all adult men eligible for military service. It is widely recognized among NATO officials that Finland’s membership of the alliance would be a significant boost in countering Russian aggression due to the seriousness with which the country has historically treated its security.

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

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