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Finland must join NATO 'without delay' its leaders say

May 12, 2022

Finnish leaders have called for the country to launch a bid to join the NATO alliance. Over three-quarters of the country's population now support the move.

A Finish soldier in camo gear
Finland looks to join NATO as Russia's war rages in UkraineImage: DW

The president and prime minister of Finland released a joint statement on Thursday laying out their intention to bring Finland into the NATO alliance following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"As a member of NATO, Finland would strengthen the entire defence alliance," President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin said in the statement.

"Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay," they added, saying that they hope the decision will be taken "within the next few days."

Finland shares a long, 1,300-kilometer (810-mile) border with Russia. During the Cold War, Helsinki maintained a form of diplomatic non-alignment between NATO and the Soviet Union, but Moscow's recent aggression has pushed the Baltic state to reconsider its position.

Support for NATO rising as Ukraine war rages

Finnish former Prime Minister Alexander Stubb on Thursday told DW that his country's decision was "better late than never," saying that while he expected Russia to respond negatively, "The more there are threats, the more the popularity of NATO membership grows."

Finland is a 'security asset' for NATO

Public support in Finland for joining the western alliance has shot up since Russian troops marched into Ukraine, reaching 76%, according to a recent poll carried out by public broadcaster YLE.

This marks a substantial shift in public perception as previous support for joining NATO had hovered around 25% for many years.

Friendly relations with Russia have soured since the beginning of the invasion with threats from Moscow that any attempt to join NATO would bring consequences.

Russia says response will depend on NATO's military infrastructure

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov responded to Thursday's statement saying that it "definitely" poses a threat to Russia and "does not make our continent more stable and secure."

He added that Russia's response would depend on "the extent to which military infrastructure moves closer to our borders."

Finland, which fought in wars against the Soviet Union in 1939 and 1944, stepped up its cooperation with NATO following Russia's annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014.

Fear of Russia - Northeastern Europe on the edge

NATO ready to welcome Finland, Sweden

Neighboring Sweden is expected to follow in Finland's footsteps in making a bid to join the alliance.

Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde responded to the statement in a message on Twitter, saying that "Finland is Sweden's closest security and defence partner, and we need to take Finnish assessments into account."

She added that Sweden will make a decision on NATO "after the report from the security policy consultations has been presented."

NATO head Jens Stoltenberg has previously said that the alliance would welcome both Finland and Sweden with open arms and that accession would likely be a quick process.

Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said to EU lawmakers on Thursday that "we are convinced that Finland would bring added value to NATO. Our wartime  strength of the defense forces is 280,000 troops, and the trained reserve is 900,000 men and women."

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that Helsinki and Stockholm can count on Berlin's support after meeting with leaders from the two countries earlier in the month.

The UK on Wednesday pledged to support both if they were attacked by Russian forces even before finalizing their membership of NATO.

ab/dj (AP, AFP, Reuters)