Previously neutral Finland announces it wants to join NATO
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Top leadership in Finland announced the previously neutral Nordic country wants to join NATO as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues.
“This is a historic day. A new era begins,” Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said Sunday. Niinisto made the announcement at a joint news conference at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki with Prime Minister Sanna Marin.
Finland shares a border with Russia and the announcement comes as top NATO diplomats are meeting Sunday in Berlin to discuss providing further support to Ukraine.
“The brutal invasion (by) Russia is losing momentum,” NATO Deputy-Secretary General Mircea Geoana told reporters Sunday. “We know that with the bravery of the Ukrainian people and army, and with our help, Ukraine can win this war.”
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Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Finland Saturday that relations between the two neighbors could be “negatively affected” if Niinisto follows through on the plan to apply for NATO membership.
Putin told Niinisto that Finland’s abandonment “of its traditional policy of military neutrality would be an error since there are no threats to Finland’s security,” according to the Kremlin’s press service.
“Such a change in the country’s foreign policy could negatively affect Russian-Finnish relations, which had been built in the spirit of good neighborliness and partnership for many years, and were mutually beneficial,” the statement added.
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The Finnish Parliament is expected to endorse the decision to join NATO in the coming days, but it is considered a formality. A formal membership application will then be submitted to NATO headquarters in Brussels, most likely sometime next week.
Sweden is also making moves to join the 30-member Western military alliance, while Georgia’s bid to join NATO is again being discussed despite dire warnings from Moscow.
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“Finland and Sweden are already the closest partners of NATO,” Geoana said, adding that he expected allies to view their applications positively.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.