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25th Feb 2024

Finland moves to join Nato in historic step

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Finland must apply to join the Nato military alliance "without delay", Finnish president Sauli Niinisto and prime minister Sanna Marin jointly said on Thursday (12 May).

It is a historic policy shift, as a result of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, for Finland which shares a 1,300km border with Russia.

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"Nato membership would strengthen Finland's security. As a member of Nato, Finland would strengthen the entire defence alliance," their joint statement said.

"Finland must apply for Nato membership without delay. We hope that the national steps still needed to make this decision will be taken rapidly within the next few days," they said.

Marin's Social Democratic party will announce its decision on Saturday, with the five-party coalition government in Helsinki expected to follow on Sunday.

"We hope that the national steps still needed to make this decision will be taken rapidly within the next few days," the joint statement of the president and the prime minister said.

Finland's foreign minister Pekka Haavisto named five issues behind his country's decision to the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee on Thursday.

The unpredictable behaviour of Russia, Moscow's readiness to put pressure on neighbours, widespread talk in Russia of the use of unconventional weapons, including nuclear and chemical weapons (even though use of such weapons is prohibited by international agreements), are the key reasons why Finland's decided to join Nato, he said.

The rules of warfare are not respected by Russia, Haavisto pointed out, and the existing European security architecture has not been working in this case, he added, as reasons for joining.

The foreign minister noted that Russia's aggression "altered the European and Finnish security environment".

Finnish public support for joining Nato has risen to record numbers over recent months, with the latest poll by public broadcaster YLE showing 76 percent of Finns in favour, and only 12 percent against.

Support for membership used to hover at only around 25 percent for years prior to the war in Ukraine, according to Reuters.

Finland fought the then Soviet Union during World War Two, repelling an attempted invasion in the 'Winter War' of 1939-40. Finland lost around 10 percent of its territory in the subsequent peace agreement.

"Finland decided to join the Alliance. Nato is about to get stronger. Baltics about to get safer," Lithuanian foreign minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said welcoming Helsinki's decision.

EU Council president Charles Michel tweeted that it was a "historic step, once taken, that will greatly contribute to European security. With Russia waging war in #Ukraine it's a powerful signal of deterrence."

Sweden next

After Finland, Sweden is also expected to apply to join the 30-nation alliance in the coming days.

Sweden's ruling Social Democrats are expected to decide on Sunday whether to overturn decades of opposition to Nato membership.

Russia has repeatedly warned both countries against joining the alliance, warning of "serious military and political consequences."

When asked about the Kremlin's reactions on a possible Nato membership Niinistö said on Wednesday that Russia should take its own responsibility.

"If the case is that we join, well, my response [to Russia] would be that you caused this, look at the mirror," Niinistö said.

Finland's speedy decision started in March with the government ordering a security policy review and delivered a report for parliament to discuss in April, while also holding discussions with all parliamentary groups to secure backing.

Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg has previously said it would be possible to allow Finland and Sweden to join "quite quickly".

However, even a quick membership process would take 6-12 months.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday signed agreements with both Sweden and Finland to come to their aid with military resources if they were attacked.

Finland builds momentum toward Nato bid

Finnish MPs have got the ball rolling on a week that's expected to culminate in a tectonic shift in Nordic security — Finland and Sweden's decision to apply for Nato membership.

Russia warns against Finland and Sweden Nato bid

Finland is expected to kick off a debate on the country's potential Nato membership. But Russia has clearly voiced opposition towards any potential enlargement of the western military alliance.

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