Finland Takes Big Step Toward Joining NATO

President, PM say country needs to apply to join alliance 'without delay'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 12, 2022 5:54 AM CDT
Finland Takes Big Step Toward Joining NATO
Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin speaks during a joint press announcement with Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo, Wednesday, May 11, 2022.   (Franck Robichon/Pool Photo via AP, File)

(Newser) – After staying neutral during the Cold War and remaining nonaligned for decades afterward, Finland is on the brink of joining NATO. In a joint statement Thursday, Prime Minister Sanna Marin and President Sauli Niinisto said the country needs to apply to join the alliance "without delay," the Guardian reports. "NATO membership would strengthen Finland’s security," they said. "As a member of NATO, Finland would strengthen the entire defense alliance." They said they hope the remaining steps toward applying for membership will be "taken rapidly within the next few days."

Finland shares an 830-mile border with Russia, and Moscow has repeatedly warned Finland and its neighbor Sweden against joining NATO. The New York Times reports that when Niinisto was asked Wednesday whether the move would provoke Russia, he said Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine is to blame. "My response would be that you caused this—look at the mirror," the president said. A Gallup poll this week found that 73% of Finns support joining NATO, up from 20% to 30% in previous years.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday that Finland's steps toward joining NATO were "definitely" a threat to Russia and Moscow's response will depend on "the extent to which military infrastructure moves closer to our borders," Reuters reports. "NATO expansion does not make our continent more stable and secure," Peskov said. Sweden is expected to make its decision on joining the alliance within days. NATO officials say the accession procedure for both countries, which would involve ratification by the legislatures of all 30 member states, could be completed in a matter of weeks, the AP reports. (Read more Finland stories.)

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