Finland is going to submit an application to join the NATO military alliance “without delay”, both Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and the Prime Minister said on Thursday. sanna marin, a major policy shift triggered by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Finland, which shares a 1,300 km (810 mile) border and a difficult past with Russia, has gradually intensified its cooperation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as a partner since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.
But until the invasion of Russia to Ukraine, the Nordic country had refrained from joining in order to maintain friendly relations with its eastern neighbor. “Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay,” Niinisto and Marin said in a joint statement. “We hope that the national steps that are still needed to make this decision will be taken quickly in the coming days.”
Opinion among Finns about NATO has changed rapidly after Russia launched what it calls a “special operation” in Ukraine. Finnish public support for joining NATO has risen to record numbers in recent months, with the latest poll by public broadcaster YLE showing 76% of Finns in favor and just 12% against, while membership support used to stay at only around 25% for years. before the war in Ukraine.
While military nonalignment has long satisfied many Finns as a way to stay out of conflict, Russia’s invasion of sovereign Ukraine has led an increasing number of them to view friendly relations with Russia like an empty sentence.
the fate of Ukraine it has been particularly unsettling for Finland, as it fought two wars with Russia between 1939 and 1944, repelling an attempted invasion but losing around 10% of its territory in the subsequent peace deal. Finland’s rapid move to NATO is likely to boost neighboring Sweden.
The ruling Social Democrats of Sweden decide on Sunday whether to overturn decades of opposition to NATO membership, a move that would almost certainly lead Sweden to apply to join the 30-nation alliance.
Russia has repeatedly warned both countries not to join the alliance. As recently as March 12, his Foreign Ministry said “there will be serious military and political consequences” if they do. The speed of the Finnish decision to apply has come as a surprise to many, with most political discussions taking place behind the scenes for fear of Russia’s reaction.
In March, the Finnish government launched a security policy review and delivered a report for parliament to discuss in April, while also holding talks with all parliamentary groups to secure support for the decision to join the treaty. .
Parallel to the internal process, the President and Prime Minister of Finland have been touring the 30 existing NATO member countries to gain their support for Finland’s membership. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg earlier said it would be possible to allow Finland and Sweden to join “quite quickly”.