Finland has said that the country intends to apply to join NATO without delay, with Sweden likely to follow suit, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine reshapes European security and the Atlantic military alliance, Reuters reported on Thursday.
NATO allies expect Finland and Sweden to be granted membership quickly, five diplomats and officials told Reuters, paving the way for increased troop presence in the Nordic region during the one-year ratification period.
“Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay,” President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin said in a joint statement in Helsinki.
“We hope that the national steps still needed to make this decision will be taken rapidly within the next few days.”
Finland, which shares a 1,300-km (810 mile) border and a pre-1945 history of conflict with Russia, has gradually stepped up cooperation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as a partner since Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014.
In the wider Nordic region, Norway, Denmark and the three Baltic states are already NATO members, and the addition of Finland and Sweden would likely anger Moscow, which says NATO enlargement is a direct threat to its own security.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has cited the issue as a reason for his actions in Ukraine, which has also expressed a desire to eventually join the U.S.-led Western alliance.
Moscow has repeatedly warned Finland and Sweden – both European Union member states – against joining NATO, threatening ‘serious military and political consequences’.
Asked on Wednesday if Finland would provoke Russia by joining NATO, Niinisto said: “My response would be that (Putin) caused this. Look at the mirror,” Niinisto said. (Reuters)