Finland’s head of state for NATO entry

The EU’s northernmost country is expected to decide on a formal application for membership in the coming days, probably on Sunday. This step would be a direct consequence of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the resulting changed security situation in Europe. For Finland, which has been non-aligned for a long time and shares a border with Russia that is more than 1,300 kilometers long, such a decision would be historic.

Niinistö and Marin’s government ultimately decide jointly on the NATO issue, but they involved parliament in the decision-making process. On the way to a decision, the government had already submitted a security analysis to the Riksdag in Helsinki in April, in which the advantages and risks of possible NATO membership were highlighted. However, the analysis did not contain a position for or against such a membership.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto

AP/Frank Augstein

President Niinistö, together with Prime Minister Marin, spoke out in favor of NATO membership

change of opinion in the population

Finland and neighboring Sweden are already close partners of NATO, but are not official members. However, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sparked intense NATO debate in both countries.

In the population there was a clear change of opinion towards joining the alliance. In a recent poll by the Finnish broadcaster Yle, 76 percent of respondents were in favor of Finland joining NATO.

Warning from Russia

Finland has a difficult past with Russia. Even after the Second World War, the country remained neutral so as not to strain relations with the then Soviet Union and then Russia. Russia had warned Finland against joining NATO.

Before the country can join NATO, all 30 current members must agree. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has recently signaled several times that there is broad support for this within the alliance.

“Historical”

Denmark, Lithuania and Estonia welcomed the decision. According to Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, Finnish accession will strengthen NATO and common security. Denmark will do everything to ensure a speedy admission process once the formal application for membership has been submitted. Denmark is a founding member of NATO.

Similarly, Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte said: “Finland’s accession would significantly strengthen both the alliance and the security of the Baltic States. I am happy about this great historic day.”

“History is being written by our northern neighbors,” tweeted Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas. Finland can count on Estonia’s “full support”. “We support the rapid accession process. The necessary steps will be taken quickly from our side.” Like Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia have been members of NATO and the EU since 2004. The Baltic States border on Russia and partly also on its ally Belarus.

Pressure on Sweden

Finland’s announcement increases the pressure on Sweden to make a timely decision on NATO membership. A separate security policy analysis was expected there on Friday, and Magdalena Andersson’s governing Social Democrats want to make a decision on their own position on the matter on Sunday. On Tuesday and Wednesday, Niinistö is finally with the Swedish King Carl XVI. Gustaf visiting Stockholm.

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