President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin of Finland made a joint statement on Thursday morning, confirming their desire to become part of NATO. The country refrained from asking for accession during the Cold War, but made a U-turn after the Russian attack against Ukraine in February.
The statement expressed the view that “as a member of NATO, Finland would strengthen the entire defense alliance.” The two officials said their country “must apply for NATO membership without delay”.
NATO claims to be a purely defensive organization, but Russia, which shares a 1,340km (833-mile) land border with Finland, perceives the bloc’s expansion as a threat to its national security. Moscow warned that Helsinki will lose its status as a trusted mediator that its non-alignment stance granted it throughout much of the last century. It also said Finland’s security would be compromised rather than served by joining NATO, since Russia would have to respond to the expansion.
Russia’s attack on Ukraine, which Moscow said was partially motivated by NATO’s creeping expansion in the country, swung public opinion in Finland in favor of joining the bloc. According to recent opinion polls, around three-fourths of the population favor the move.
A special governmental body that includes the two top Finnish officials and several members of the cabinet are expected to meet later this week to pen a formal application, which will then be submitted to the Finnish parliament for approval.