Finland’s president and government announced Sunday that the Nordic country intends apply for membership of NATO, paving the way for the 30-member Western military alliance to expand amid Russia’s war in Ukraine.
President Sauli Niinistö and Prime Minister Sanna Marin made the announcement of the historic policy shift from the country’s traditional neutrality at a joint news conference.
Sweden’s ruling Social Democratic Party later gave the green light to a NATO bid for its country, paving the way for the government to apply for membership jointly with Finland.
“Today, we, the president and the government’s foreign policy committee, have together decided that Finland … will apply for NATO membership,” Finland’s President Niinistö told reporters gathered at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki.about:blank
The Finnish Parliament is expected to endorse the decision in coming days, but it is considered a formality.
A formal membership application will then be submitted to NATO headquarters in Brussels, most likely at the some point next week.
Sweden’s ruling party backs application
At an extraordinary meeting, the leadership of Sweden’s Social Democrats decided that the party would “contribute to a Swedish application for NATO membership”, the board said in a statement, reversing their long-standing line.
The party has long been opposed to NATO membership, but has changed stance over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent war.
“The Social Democrats will thus work for Sweden, if the application is approved by NATO, to declare unilateral reservations against the deployment of nuclear weapons and permanent bases on Swedish territory.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the bids would be a “historic moment” and were proof that “aggression does not pay”. The NATO chief said their applications would strengthen common security and show that the alliance’s door was open.
The alliance’s foreign ministers met on Sunday in Berlin to discuss the moves by Finland, Sweden and others to join the western alliance in the face of threats from Russia.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, attending the meeting, said there was “a strong consensus for bringing Finland and Sweden into the alliance”.
“Finland and Sweden are already the closest partners of NATO,” NATO Deputy-Secretary General Mircea Geoana said earlier on Sunday, adding that he expected allies to view their applications positively.
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