Finland’s president and government announced on Sunday that the Nordic countries were willing to apply for NATO membership. This is to lay the groundwork for the expansion of the Western military alliance made up of 30 countries amid Russia’s war in Ukraine.
President Sauli Ninisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin made the announcement at a joint press conference held at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki.
The Finnish parliament is expected to approve the decision within a few days, but it is considered formal.
Official membership applications will be submitted to NATO headquarters in Brussels at some point next week.
It comes after Finnish leaders this week said they were in favor of expediting NATO membership. “Finland should apply for NATO membership without delay,” they said. We hope that the national action necessary to make this decision will be taken quickly in the next few days.”
The announcement faced the threat of the Kremlin, which shares an 800-mile border with Finland. Russia said it would take retaliatory “military-technical” measures after Finnish leaders voted in favor of NATO membership, while Sweden said it could take the same action within days of the historic restructuring triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry described Finland’s move as “a radical change in the country’s foreign policy”.
Finland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, “Finland’s accession to NATO will seriously damage the bilateral relations between Russia and Finland and the maintenance of stability and security in the Nordic region.”
“Russia is compelled to take retaliatory measures of a military, technical and other nature to neutralize the threat to national security that it posed.”
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also criticized Finland for its decision to apply for NATO membership, claiming that Finland and neighboring Sweden are “home to many terrorist organizations”.
Prime Minister Erdogan’s objection is likely to thwart potential proposals from both countries, as membership in the alliance depends on the unanimity of all 30 member states. Turkey is a NATO member.
“We are watching the situation with Sweden and Finland, but we do not have a positive view,” Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul, adding that NATO’s previous acceptance of Greece as a member was a mistake.
“As Turkey, we do not want to repeat similar mistakes. Moreover, the Scandinavian countries are guesthouses of terrorist organizations.
“In some countries, I am also a member of parliament. We cannot have an advantage,” he added.
In the Kremlin’s fiercest rebuttal to Finland’s accession to NATO, Vice Chairman of the National Defense Commission Alexei Zurablev warned that Russia could use the new Sarmatian intercontinental missile to eliminate a recognized enemy in seconds.
“Our target is absolutely legal if Finland wants to join this bloc. It is to question the existence of this state. This is logical,” Zhuravlyov said in an interview with state TV Russia 1.
“If the US threatens our country, that’s good. Here’s Sarmat. If Russia thinks it shouldn’t exist, then there will be nuclear materials. And Finland says it’s one with the US. Come on, line up.”
Asked if Russia will now put nuclear weapons back on its border with Finland, he replied: “For what? You don’t have to.
“We can strike from Siberia to Sarmatt and even reach England. And if we attack from Kaliningrad… Hypersonic arrival time is 200 seconds. So go on.”