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Finland’s Leaders Announce Intention to Apply for NATO Membership

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Finland’s president and prime minister on Thursday said they supported the country applying for NATO membership, making it all but certain that the Nordic nation will join the alliance in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization would be a major break from decades of Finnish nonaligned defense policy and deal a blow to Russian President

Vladimir Putin’s

ambition to divide and weaken the Western alliance.

Finland and neighboring Sweden have for decades been the two major holdouts among Western nations outside the NATO alliance. Both Nordic countries are likely to apply for membership next week, despite warnings from Russia that such bids would have “consequences.”

“NATO membership would strengthen Finland’s security,” President

Sauli Niinistö

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and Prime Minister

Sanna Marin

said in a joint statement. “As a member of NATO, Finland would strengthen the entire defence alliance. Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay. We hope that the national steps still needed to make this decision will be taken rapidly within the next few days.”

Finland has since the end of the Cold War been an increasingly close partner of NATO, but has remained militarily nonaligned, largely to avoid provoking Russia, a hedging position that has enjoyed widespread support among Finns and the country’s decision makers.

“The ‘NATO option’ has been a guiding star. We didn’t want to be a member of NATO, but we wanted the option,” said Sinikukka Saari, a researcher at the Finnish Institute of International Studies.

Less than three months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, however, public opinion has swung decisively in favor of NATO membership, prompting politicians to pivot, too. Thursday’s announcement is likely to further boost public support for joining the alliance.

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said in a joint statement with the country’s president that ‘NATO membership would strengthen Finland’s security.’



Photo:

franck robichon/pool/Shutterstock

Public backing for Finnish NATO membership jumped from around 20% before the Russian invasion of Ukraine to 53% in late February, and 76% on May 9, according to polls by broadcaster Yle. Support was at 82% when potential support for membership from the Finnish president and the government were factored in.

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