Finland to apply to join NATO, say president and prime minister

Finland to apply to join NATO, say president and prime minister

Finland wants to become a member of NATO and will apply for membership of the defence alliance, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and Prime Minister Sanna Marin said on Sunday in a step they greeted as historic.

Formally, the Finnish parliament must approve the plan but a majority is considered certain, as the country’s ruling Social Democrats already endorsed the step on Saturday.

“A new era is beginning,” Niinistö said.

Finland has been non-aligned for decades and the question of joining NATO was long considered unthinkable. However, Russia’s attack on Ukraine lent the question new urgency and triggered intense political and public debate.

“When we look at Russia, we see a very different kind of Russia today than we saw just a few months ago. Everything has changed when Russia attacked Ukraine,” Marin said. “I personally think that we cannot trust anymore that there will be a peaceful future.”

“That’s why we’re making the decision to join NATO. It’s an act of peace,” she said, adding that Finland was prepared for possible responses from the neighbouring country.

“We have had wars with Russia, and we don’t want that kind of future for ourselves, for our children, and this is why we’re making these decisions today and in the upcoming weeks, so there will never again be a war,” the Finnish premier said.

Niinistö and Marin jointly announced their support for Helsinki’s accession on Thursday. Opinion polls also show that most people are in favour of the step.

Finland‘s announcement comes a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Niinistö that joining NATO would be a mistake and that Russia posed no threat to Finland, according to a Kremlin statement.

Finland‘s departure from its traditional neutrality would cause the two countries’ good neighbourly relations to deteriorate, Putin said.

Sweden, also traditionally a non-aligned country, could also decide to apply for NATO membership, with the government expected to make a decision in the near future.

Sweden’s governing Social Democrats are due to take an official position on whether the country should apply to join NATO on Sunday.

Finland‘s backing for the move is likely to put further pressure on Stockholm, where a parliamentary debate is scheduled for Monday.

Sweden’s Social Democrats long opposed joining the organization, advocating instead for the country to remain neutral in armed conflicts. However, as public opinion on the issue shifts, the party has decided to revisit its policy.

Unlike their Nordic neighbours Denmark, Norway and Iceland, Sweden and Finland have never been members of NATO, despite closely cooperating with the alliance.