Finnish leaders ready to join NATO, bid expected on Saturday

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Finland has come one step closer to joining NATO. Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin on Thursday approved their country’s membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Finns are expected to apply for membership on Saturday.

“NATO membership would strengthen Finland’s security,” the president and prime minister said in a joint statement. They also write there that Finland must apply “immediately”. “We hope that the national steps still necessary to make this decision will be taken quickly in the coming days.”

Since the war in Ukraine, more and more voices are being raised in Finland to join NATO in order to protect the country against threats from Russia. Finland shares a 1,300 kilometer border with Russia. “The war in Ukraine has affected our security, but there is no immediate threat,” the Finnish leaders wrote.

Finland’s ruling party will announce its position on Saturday. There already appears to be a majority in favor of membership in the Finnish parliament. This is probably also the case in Sweden. Sweden’s ruling party is expected to make a decision on Sunday.

Finland and Sweden did not join NATO before in order to maintain good relations with Russia (and before that the Soviet Union) and to remain neutral. This position changed for many citizens after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Three out of four Finns are now in favor of joining NATO. Moscow has already threatened that any accession would have “political and military consequences”.

The two Scandinavian countries already work closely with NATO on a military level, but the thirty current member states must first agree to join them. According to General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg, this is not a problem and Finland and Sweden could soon join them.

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