In the joint statement, Niinistö and Marin said: “NATO membership will enhance Finland’s security. As a NATO member, Finland will strengthen the entire defense alliance. Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay. We hope that national steps are still necessary to achieve this decision will be taken.” quickly within the next few days.”
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, popular support for joining NATO in Finland has jumped from around 30% to nearly 80% in some opinion polls.
Once parliament has approved the idea in principle and any other domestic legislative hurdles have been removed, NATO is expected to invite Finland to negotiate its accession.
It is also expected that Sweden, Finland’s neighbor to the west, will soon announce its intention to join the alliance through a similar process.
Russia has warned both countries against joining NATO, saying there will be consequences.
European diplomats and security officials widely assume that Finland can join the alliance quickly once negotiations begin, as it has been buying compatible military hardware with its Western allies, including the United States, for decades and already meeting many membership criteria.
Finland’s accession to NATO will have both practical and symbolic consequences for Russia and the Western alliance.
Since the end of World War II, Finland has been militarily unaligned and nominally neutral In order to avoid provoking Russia. It has at times condoned the Kremlin’s security concerns and tried to maintain good business relations.
However, the war in Ukraine has changed the calculus enough that joining NATO now appears to be the best way forward, regardless of Russia’s reaction.
European defense officials who spoke to CNN in recent months assume that NATO countries will offer some guarantees about Finland’s security during the accession process, in case Russia retaliates before it formally joins.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced, on Wednesday, new security agreements with Finland and Sweden, pledging assistance to either country if one of them is attacked.
Historically, Finland has had high defense spending and still has a conscription policy, in which all adult men are liable to be called up for military service. It is widely accepted among NATO officials that Finland’s entry into the alliance would be a major boost in the face of Russian aggression because of how seriously the country has historically taken its security.
It also shares more than 800 miles of border with Russia, which is significant as the Kremlin stated before the invasion of Ukraine that it wanted to see NATO roll back its borders to where they were in the 1990s.
Alternatively, President Vladimir Putin’s maneuvering could lead to a stronger NATO rapprochement.
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