President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin of Finland made a joint statement on Thursday morning, confirming their nation’s desire to become part of NATO. The nation did not ask for NATO accession in the Cold War but made an abrupt u-turn following the Russian attack on Ukraine in February.
NATO claims to be a purely defensive organization, but Russia, which shares a 1,340km (833-mile) land border with Finland, perceives the bloc’s expansion as a threat to national security. Moscow claimed that Helsinki would lose the status of a trusted mediator due to its non-alignment policy, which it has enjoyed for most of the 20th century. It also said Finland’s security would be compromised rather than served by joining NATO, since Russia would have to respond to the expansion.
Russia’s attack on Ukraine, which Moscow said was partially motivated by NATO’s creeping expansion in the country, swung public opinion in Finland in favor of joining the bloc. A recent poll found that three-quarters of Finland’s population supports the move.
The two highest ranking Finnish officials as well as several cabinet members are scheduled to meet this week in order to prepare a formal request, which will be presented to the Finnish parliament.
Each NATO ally’s legislative body will need to then approve the request for Finland to become a member. Pekka Haisto, Finland’s Foreign Minister, said that this process would be finished no later than October. It could also take up to 12 months.
Sweden, which is a Nordic neighbor, could also apply but the government is not sure if it should. Since the Napoleonic Wars, Sweden has had a long history of non-alignment. According to opinion polls, roughly half the Swedes support joining NATO.
Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist said earlier this week that if his country submits an application to join NATO, he would prefer it to be processed along with Finland’s bid.
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