The Government of Finland Thursday confirmed its country's intention to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), President Sauli Niinistö and Prime Minister Sanna Marin announced Thursday.
The statement also pointed out that Finland should apply for NATO membership without delay.
Finland's decision marks a major shift in global geopolitics following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. A special committee will announce Finland's formal decision on Sunday. Sweden is also expected to decide on joining the military alliance in the coming days.
NATO membership would strengthen Finland's security. As a member of NATO, Finland would strengthen the entire defense alliance, Niinisto and Marin said.
Finland, which shares a 1,300km border with Russia, had refrained from joining NATO during the Cold War in order to avoid provoking the Soviet Union, which invaded Finland in 1939 and seized 10% of its territory in the subsequent peace agreement.
The next step for Finland is for a ministerial-level security policy meeting to convene Sunday and make the formal decision to submit an application, to be presented to the parliament. After an official bid is submitted, lawmakers in all 30 NATO member states would need to ratify its application – a process that can take months. But NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said the military alliance would welcome both Finland and Sweden, and said it would be possible to allow them to join quite quickly.
Russian authorities have warned that such a decision on the part of Finland and Sweden would prompt a reaction, in light of the new strategic threat it poses.
“There is a current instruction from the president to develop a list of measures to strengthen our western flanks in connection with the strengthening of NATO’s eastern flanks,” said Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov during a daily press briefing. He added that Russia regrets Finland’s decision and warned that Helsinki’s attempts to join NATO would serve as a reason to develop respective mirror responses.