President and Prime Minister of Finland approve of NATO Entry. Kremlin perceives it as a Threat
The Finnish authorities announced today that they are "in favor" of applying for NATO membership, which paves the way for the expansion of the alliance against the background of the war in Ukraine, the Associated Press reported.
Finland's dramatic move was announced in a joint statement by President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin. This means that Finland will almost certainly apply for NATO membership, although there are still a few steps to go before the application process begins. Neighboring Sweden is expected to decide to join NATO in the coming days, the AP added.
Finland has a 1,340-kilometer land border with Russia. The Kremlin has warned of "military and political consequences" if Sweden and Finland decide to join NATO. If they submit an application, there will be an interim period, which will run from the time the application is submitted until the parliaments of all 30 NATO members have ratified it.
"Now that the time for decision-making is approaching, we are speaking with one voice, as well as information from parliamentary groups and parties," Niinistö and Marin said in a joint statement. "NATO membership will strengthen Finland's security," they said.
"As a member of NATO, Finland will strengthen the entire defense alliance," they said. "Finland must apply for NATO membership immediately. We hope that the national steps that are still needed to make this decision will be taken quickly in the next few days."
The statement comes a day after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited Finland and Sweden to sign a military co-operation agreement. The United Kingdom has pledged to come to the aid of Sweden and Finland if the two Scandinavian countries are attacked.
In 2017, Sweden and Finland joined the UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force, which is designed to be more flexible and responsive than the larger NATO alliance. It uses NATO standards and doctrine so that it can work with NATO, the UN or other multinational coalitions. Fully operational since 2018, the force has conducted a number of exercises, both on its own and in cooperation with NATO.
Following Russia's invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Finland and Sweden are considering whether to renounce their historic neutrality and join NATO's 30-nation bloc.
If Finland becomes a member of NATO, it will mean the biggest change in the Scandinavian country's defense and security policy since World War II, when it waged two lost wars against the Soviet Union.
During the Cold War, Finland did not join NATO so as not to provoke the Soviet Union but chose to remain a neutral buffer between East and West, maintaining good relations with Moscow and the United States.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said the military alliance will welcome Finland and Sweden - both with strong and modern armies - with open arms and expects the accession process to be quick and smooth.
Kremlin: Finland's decision on NATO is a threat
The Kremlin has said that Finland's decision to join NATO is "definitely" a threat to Russia and that expanding the military bloc will not make Europe or the world more stable. Speaking to reporters during a conference call, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Finland's steps to join NATO were unfortunate and a reason for a symmetrical response.
Former President Dmitry Medvedev, now deputy chairman of Russia's Security Council, warned the West today that increased military support for Ukraine by the United States and its allies risks a conflict between Russia and NATO.
Such a conflict always carries the risk of turning into a full-scale nuclear war, Medvedev wrote in the Telegram:
"The pumping of weapons with Ukraine from NATO countries, the training of troops to use Western equipment, the sending of mercenaries and the exercises of Allied countries along our borders increase the likelihood of direct and open conflict between NATO and Russia."
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