Finland has confirmed it will apply to join NATO despite Russia’s president warning it would be a “mistake” to do so.
Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto said joining the military alliance will “maximise” his country’s security following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
A formal membership application is expected to be submitted to NATO headquarters in Brussels next week.
Russia has lost ‘one third’ of ground forces, says UK MoD – follow Ukraine updates
“This is a historic day. A new era begins,” Mr Niinisto said.
He added that the move gives him “security of mind” and membership holds “huge importance” to the country.
“In the future, I have described that the Finnish-Russian relationship will change and I’m sure Russians think in a similar way but, like I said, there are daily questions where you have to be capable of co-operating,” the president said.
Finland, which shares a long border with Russia, has previously been a neutral country.
Yesterday, Mr Niinisto told Vladimir Putin about his intentions, sparking a warning from the Russian president that abandoning neutrality would be a “mistake”.
In response, Finland’s leader told Mr Putin the invasion of Ukraine had changed the country’s security environment.
Other key developments:
• Ukraine wins the Eurovision Song Contest in a huge show of support from the rest of the continent
• G7 nations vow more military and economic aid for Ukraine
• Russia is ‘likely’ to have lost ‘one third’ of ground troops since the invasion began, says the UK
• Russia’s military advance appears to be faltering, says a senior NATO official
• ‘Four enemy missiles’ have struck Ukrainian military infrastructure, according to a local governor
Finland’s NATO membership bid is expected to be followed by a similar move from Sweden.
Following the announcement, Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin said applications from both countries are “very important” and “will strengthen the whole Nordic region”.
An expansion of the 30-country military alliance would be a blow to Mr Putin, who undertook the war in, what he said was, a bid to thwart its easterly advance.
Countries within the alliance are required to defend each other if any one of them is attacked.
The announcement came as a meeting of NATO foreign ministers took place in Berlin, where the Ukraine war and expanding the alliance were discussed.
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Will the UK support Finland’s application?
Speaking at the meeting, UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said “there was strong support” for a “more global NATO”.
“At NATO this weekend, we agreed we must continue to help Ukraine win and push Russia out. Putin must face a sustained defeat in Ukraine, Russia must be contained and such aggression must never happen again,” she added.
“NATO’s open-door policy is essential and if Finland and Sweden decide to apply to join it is clear that they would strengthen the alliance and European security as a whole.”
Earlier, Ms Truss said the UK is “strongly supportive” of Finland and Sweden applying to join.
Former British Army officer, Ed Arnold told Sky News that if both countries were to join NATO it would be a “very significant moment”, especially in terms of how European security is set up.
He added that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has already signed joint declarations to make sure they are “secure in terms of applying to NATO and the ratification process, which will take a couple of months”.
What do other NATO members think?
On Saturday, Turkey raised objections to the two Nordic countries’ potential requests, saying both of them are “openly supporting and engaging” with the outlawed Kurdish militant group PKK and “terrorist organisation” YPG.
However, NATO’s deputy-secretary general Mircea Geoana said he was “confident” that the alliance will be able to address Turkey’s concerns and welcome all the countries to find “conditions for consensus to be met”.
“Finland and Sweden are already the closest partners of NATO,” he said, adding that he expects allies to view their applications positively.
German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock said her country and others have made it clear that they are willing to fast-track the national ratification process for Finland and Sweden.
“If these two countries are deciding to join, they can join very quickly,” she said.
Meanwhile, Denmark has dismissed suggestions that Mr Putin’s objections to Finland joining the alliance would hinder it from accepting new members.
“Each and every European country has a fundamental right to choose their own security arrangement,” he said.
He added that NATO will also stand with other countries, such as Georgia, which he said are being “instrumentalised” by Russia.
Kaynak : https://news.sky.com/story/finland-confirms-it-is-applying-to-join-nato-to-maximise-countrys-security-12613613