Finland to apply for Nato membership

Russian leader Vladimir Putin has warned Finland that joining Nato would be a ‘mistake’

Thomas Kingsley
Sunday 15 May 2022 17:49
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<p>An application process will now begin for Finland to join Nato </p>

An application process will now begin for Finland to join Nato

Finland’s government announced on Sunday that the Nordic country intends to apply for membership of Nato, paving the way for the 30-member western military alliance to expand as Russia’s war in Ukraine continues.

President Sauli Niinisto and prime minister Sanna Marin made the announcement in a joint news conference at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki.

The Finnish parliament is expected to endorse the decision in the coming days, but this is considered a formality.

A formal membership application will then be submitted to Nato headquarters in Brussels, most likely at some point next week.

It comes after the Finnish leaders said this week that they were in favour of applying for Nato membership as soon as possible. “Finland must apply for Nato membership without delay,” they said. “We hope that the national steps still needed to make this decision will be taken rapidly within the next few days.”

Finland’s prime minister, Sanna Marin (L), and president, Sauli Niinisto, attend a joint news conference on the country’s security policy

The announcement was met with threats by Russia, which shares a 800-mile border with Finland. The Kremlin said it would take retaliatory “military-technical” steps after Finland’s leaders came out in favour of applying to join the alliance. Sweden could also apply to join Nato within days, in a historic realignment triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Russia’s foreign ministry described Finland’s decision as “a radical change in the country’s foreign policy”.

“Finland’s accession to Nato will cause serious damage to bilateral Russian-Finnish relations and the maintaining of stability and security in the northern European region,” the ministry said.

“Russia will be forced to take retaliatory steps, both of a military-technical and other nature, in order to neutralise the threats to its national security that arise from this.”

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, also criticised Finland’s decision to apply for Nato membership, claiming that Finland and its neighbour Sweden are “home to many terrorist organisations”.

The opposition of Mr Erdogan has the potential to thwart the potential bids from the two nations, since membership of the alliance hinges on unanimous agreement from all 30 member states. Turkey is a Nato member.

Vladimir Putin has warned Finland against joining Nato

“We are following the developments regarding Sweden and Finland, but we don’t hold positive views,” Mr Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul, adding that it had been a mistake for Nato to accept Greece as a member in the past.

“As Turkey, we don’t want to repeat similar mistakes. Furthermore, Scandinavian countries are guesthouses for terrorist organisations,” Mr Erdogan said, without expanding on this claim.

“They are even members of the parliament in some countries. It is not possible for us to be in favour,” he added.

In the Kremlin’s fiercest response to Finland’s move to join Nato, the deputy chair of Russia’s defence committee, Aleksey Zhuravlyov, warned that Russia could destroy the countries it believes to be its enemies within seconds using its new Sarmat intercontinental missile.

Russian Yars intercontinental ballistic missile launchers roll through Red Square in a parade on 9 May

“If Finland wants to join this bloc, then our goal is absolutely legitimate – to question the existence of this state. This is logical,” Mr Zhuravlyov said in an interview with state TV channel Russia-1.

“If the United States threatens our state, it’s good: here is the Sarmat for you, and there will be nuclear ashes from you if you think that Russia should not exist. And Finland says that it is at one with the USA. Well, get in line.”

Asked if Russia would now move nuclear weapons onto its border with Finland, he said: “What for? We don’t need to. We can hit with a Sarmat from Siberia, and even reach the UK. And if we strike from Kaliningrad... the hypersonic’s reaching time is 200 seconds – so go ahead, guys.”

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