Finland’s NATO membership takes shape. The President and Prime Minister of Finland said they were in favor, Thursday, May 12, of joining NATO “without delay”. A huge step towards a candidacy must still be formalized on Sunday.
“Being a member of NATO would make Finland more secure. As a member of NATO, Finland would strengthen the alliance as a whole. Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay,” Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and Prime Minister Sanna Marin said in a joint statement. A press conference by the Finnish executive tandem to formalize “decisions regarding Finland’s security policy” is scheduled for Sunday, according to Helsinki.
Moscow reacted by saying that the Nordic country’s membership of the Western military alliance would “definitely” pose a threat against Russia, citing the taking of “military-technical” measures.
A direct consequence of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, the Finnish candidacy should go hand in hand with a Swedish application for membership, also expected in the coming days.
NATO members encourage this membership
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg hailed Finnish leaders’ willingness to join the Alliance, promising a “smooth” process, which will happen “quickly”. Like many NATO members, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has shown his “full support” for Finland. France “fully supports” Helsinki, the Elysee said.
The official position of the two leaders marks the shift in the line of the Nordic country, which shares a border of 1,300 kilometers and a painful past with Russia. In the country of 5.5 million people, 76% of the population is now in favor of membership, according to a poll published on Monday, triple its pre-war level.
In Parliament, a very large majority of the 200 deputies is acquired, with only a dozen declared opponents. The chamber will meet on Monday morning to study the executive’s proposal, probably with a vote, its president, Matti Vanhanen, told public television Yle.
Moscow must ‘look in the mirror’
“Joining NATO would not be against anyone,” the Finnish president assured Wednesday evening, in response to Russian warnings against Helsinki joining the alliance. For the Finnish president, long an advocate of East-West dialogue, Russia can only blame itself for seeing its neighbor join the alliance.
“If we joined [NATO], my response to Russia would be: ‘you caused this, look at yourself in the mirror,'” Mr. Niinistö reacted. “One of the things Mr. Putin was saying was that he didn’t want a strong NATO on his western flank. That’s what he’s getting,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said, referring to an alliance “growing in strength” and “deterrence capability.”
Subjected to a form of forced neutrality by Moscow during the Cold War, the former Russian province (1809-1917), invaded by the Soviet Union in 1939, had joined the European Union and the Partnership for Peace of the NATO after the fall of the Soviet Union, but remained a non-member of the alliance.
A process that will take several months
The formal decision on membership must be taken by a council on security and foreign policy, bringing together the head of state, the prime minister and several ministers. “We have to hope that Sweden, our close partner, will come to the same conclusion and that we can apply together,” Finnish Defense Minister Antti Kaikkonen said.
On the Swedish side, a strategic review prepared by the government and the parties in Parliament will be made public on Friday, before an undoubtedly decisive meeting of the ruling Social Democratic Party on Sunday.
Worried about the reaction of Russia, the two countries have already sought to obtain assurances of protection during the months necessary for their formal entry into the Atlantic Alliance, like an agreement signed on Wednesday with London. The two countries, members of the European Union, can also count on article 42.7 of mutual assistance of the European treaties, recalled Thursday the Finnish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Pekka Haavisto, before the European Parliament.
This period, which implies in particular a ratification by the Parliaments of each of the thirty current members of the Alliance, can take several months. In the US Senate, which is tasked with ratification with a required strong two-thirds majority, key lawmakers from Democrats and Republicans have pledged support for membership.