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Finland Takes Step Toward NATO Despite Threats From Moscow

By RFE/RL May 12, 2022

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin have come out in support of dropping the country's long-held stance of neutrality, saying the Nordic nation should join the NATO military alliance in response to Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

The move, which is expected to happen quickly and at the same time as neighboring Sweden, would mark a major shift in Europe's security structure and flies in the face of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has said he ordered the invasion of Ukraine in part to halt the further expansion of NATO to its borders.

Moscow reacted sharply to the news, saying it will consider "necessary measures in order to balance the situation" if Finland, which shares a long border with Russia, joins the alliance.

"NATO membership would strengthen Finland's security. As a member of NATO, Finland would strengthen the entire defense alliance. Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay. We hope that the national steps still needed to make this decision will be taken rapidly within the next few days," Niinisto and Marin said in a joint statement on May 12.

Debate on joining NATO was sparked by growing security fears after Russia launched an unprovoked invasion of its neighbor Ukraine in February.

Finland's next step is a meeting of a special committee on May 15 made up of the president, prime minister and up to six other cabinet ministers. It will make the formal decision whether to submit a Finnish application.

The proposal will then be presented to parliament for a debate on May 16.

While no formal date is expected to be announced immediately for when accession could take place, NATO will hold a summit in Madrid on June 28-29.

NATO officials have indicated that the accession protocols for Finland and Sweden could be signed at that time if the formal applications landed on NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg's desk by the end of May.

In response to the news, Stoltenberg said Finland's entry would be "smooth and swift."

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen quickly applauded the joint statement, saying his country will "warmly welcome" Finland to NATO as the move will strengthen the alliance and "our common security."

"Denmark will do everything for a quick admission process after the formal application," he added in a tweet.

The announcement means Finland is all but certain to apply and it, along with Sweden, is expected to experience few problems integrating into the alliance.

Both countries have been in NATO's Partnership for Peace program since 1994, and its Enhanced Opportunity Partners 20 years later. The two structures ensure smoother cooperation with NATO for countries not part of the alliance.

The membership ratification process normally takes about a year, as the national parliaments of all 30 NATO members must debate and vote on the issue -- frequently after first debating it in committee.

But high-ranking politicians and officials from both Sweden and Finland have been busy touring various NATO capitals in recent months to request considerably accelerated processes.

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/finland-nato- membership-sweden/31845970.html

Copyright (c) 2022. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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