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Finland's leaders say they are in favor of seeking NATO membership

By The Associated Press
Finland's President Sauli Niinisto makes a point during a joint press conference with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (Frank Augstein / AP)

HELSINKI — Finland's president and prime minister said Thursday they're in favor of applying for NATO membership, paving the way for the alliance to expand amid Russia's war in Ukraine.

The dramatic move by Finland was announced by President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin in a joint statement. It means that Finland is virtually certain to seek NATO membership, though a few steps remain before the application process can begin. Neighboring Sweden is expected to decide on joining NATO in coming days.

Finland shares a 1,340-kilometer (830-mile) land border with Russia. The Kremlin has warned of "military and political repercussions" if Sweden and Finland decide to join NATO. Should they apply, there will be an interim period lasting from when an application has been handed in until all 30 NATO members' parliaments have ratified it.

"Now that the moment of decision-making is near, we state our equal views, also for information to the parliamentary groups and parties," Niinisto and Marin said in a joint statement. "NATO membership would strengthen Finland's security."

"As a member of NATO, Finland would strengthen the entire defence alliance," they 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."

The statement on Thursday came a day after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited both Finland and Sweden to sign a military cooperation agreement.

The U.K. pledged on Wednesday to come to the aid of Sweden and Finland if the two Nordic nations came under attack.

In 2017, Sweden and Finland joined the British-led Joint Expeditionary Force, which is designed to be more flexible and respond more quickly than the larger NATO alliance. It uses NATO standards and doctrine, so it can operate in conjunction with NATO, the United Nations or other multinational coalitions. Fully operational since 2018, the force has held a number of exercises both independently and in cooperation with NATO.

Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, Finland and Sweden have been pondering whether to abandon their historic, decades-old neutrality and join the 30-member NATO.

Should Finland become a NATO member, it would mean the biggest change in the Nordic country's defense and security policy since World War II when it fought two lost wars against the Soviet Union.

During the Cold War, Finland stayed away from NATO to avoid provoking the Soviet Union, instead opting to remain a neutral buffer between the East and the West while maintaining good relations with Moscow and also with the United States.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said the military alliance would welcome Finland and Sweden — both of which have strong, modern militaries — with open arms and expects the accession process to be speedy and smooth.

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Dive Deeper:
Finland’s leaders in favour of applying for Nato membership
Finland’s president and prime minister have said they are in favour of applying for Nato membership, paving the way for…
Finland’s leaders advocate Nato membership ‘without delay’
Finland’s president and prime minister have said they are in favour of rapidly applying for Nato membership “without delay,” paving…
Finland's leaders in favor of applying for NATO membership
Finland’s president and prime minister say they’re in favor of applying for NATO membership
Finland Seeks NATO Membership: What You Need To Know
The government of Finland is putting forth an application for membership in NATO.
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay, Finnish President and PM say
Finland should submit an application to join the NATO military alliance, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin…
Finland's leaders say country "must apply for NATO membership without delay"
Once officially admitted into NATO, Finland will more than double the length of the alliance's borders with Russia.
Get all your news in one place