Finland’s president and government announced Sunday that the Nordic country intends to apply for NATO membership, paving the way for the 30-member Western military alliance to expand as the offensive in Ukraine continues.
President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin made the announcement at a joint news conference at the Presidential palace in Helsinki. “Today, the President of the Republic and the Government’s Foreign Policy Committee have jointly agreed that Finland will apply for NATO membership, after consulting Parliament. It is a historic day. A new era is opening,” they said.
The Finnish Parliament is expected to endorse the decision in the coming days, although it is considered a formality. With the road gone, a formal application for membership will be sent to NATO headquarters in Brussels, probably next week.
Marin expressed his wish that the ratification process be “as fast and smooth as possible” and that “no member of the organization has reported any problems in this regard”, referring to the statements made on Friday by the president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on his disagreement with the accession plans of Finland and Sweden.
Erdogan expressed his discomfort after denouncing that the Scandinavian countries granted favorable treatment to organizations such as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), declared a terrorist group by his country and estimated, citing the case of Greece, that joining NATO is rare time resolves territorial tensions.
Niinisto, in response, acknowledged his “confusion” about the Turkish position and assured that the president had been “pleased” and “supportive” of the incorporation. “On Friday we heard something different and on Saturday it was open again to the incorporation and then the opposite: we want a clear answer on this and we hope to talk to Erdogan about the problems he raises,” he added.
Regarding Russia’s reaction, the president indicated that “membership in NATO does not change the geography” between the two neighboring countries and that in his telephone conversation with Putin on Saturday, and in which he personally informed him of the decision to join the bloc, both leaders recalled aspects of bilateral cooperation unrelated to the Atlantic Alliance “that we have to take care of in the future”.
“I hope and I have no doubt that Russia wants to continue with these daily obligations, as has happened with Norway in the difficult context of the Arctic,” said the president.
Simultaneously, Sweden’s ruling party sits in a decisive hour that could pave the way for a joint application.
Less than three months after the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the two Nordic neighbors appear poised to reverse policies on military nonalignment that date back more than 75 years in Finland and more than two centuries in Sweden.
“Hopefully we can send our applications next week together with Sweden,” the Finnish premier said on Saturday.
The countries broke their strict neutralities after the end of the Cold War by joining the EU and becoming NATO partners in the 1990s, cementing their affiliation with the West.
But the concept of full membership in NATO was not a start in the countries until the invasion of Ukraine saw public and political support grow for joining the military alliance in both countries.
Finland has been in the lead, while Sweden seems concerned about being the only non-NATO country in the Baltic Sea. Many Swedish politicians have even said that their support is conditional on Finland joining.
NO MORE OPTIONS
According to recent polls, the number of Finns who want to join the alliance has risen to more than three-quarters, triple the level seen before the offensive in Ukraine.
In Sweden, support also rose sharply, to around 50 percent, with 20 percent against.
The top leadership of Sweden’s Social Democrats, led by Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, will meet on Sunday afternoon to decide whether the party should abandon its historic stance not to join, last reaffirmed at the party’s annual congress in November. .
A green light from the ruling Social Democrats would ensure a strong majority in Sweden’s parliament in favor of joining
While top party politicians seemed willing to reverse the decision, internal critics denounced the policy change as rushed.
But analysts say the party is unlikely to oppose the move. “Perhaps there will not be the same sense of urgency” as in Finland, defense researcher Robert Dalsjo, an analyst at the Swedish Defense Research Institute (FOI), told AFP. “But the leaders in Sweden have realized that they don’t really have a choice, once Finland has one,” he added.
Membership in NATO must be approved and ratified by all 30 members of the alliance.