Finland announces a “historic” NATO offer – The Citizen



The Finnish government officially announced its intention to join NATO on Sunday, as the Swedish ruling party was to hold a decisive meeting that could pave the way for a joint question.

Less than three months after the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the move is a stunning reversal of the Finnish policy on military non-alignment that dates back more than 75 years.

Sweden, which has been militarily unaligned for more than two centuries, is also seen to follow suit, with a similar announcement expected on Monday.

“Today the President of the Republic and the Government’s Foreign Policy Committee jointly agreed that Finland will apply for NATO membership after consulting Parliament. This is a historic day. A new era is opening, “Finnish President Sauli Niinisto told reporters on Sunday.

Despite Turkey’s last-minute objections, NATO members are on the “right track” in their discussions of welcoming Sweden and Finland into the Western military alliance, Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlic Radman told al his arrival for talks with NATO counterparts in Berlin.

The Finnish parliament will meet to discuss the membership proposal on Monday.

“We hope that parliament confirms its decision to apply for NATO membership in the coming days. It will be based on a strong mandate, “Prime Minister Sanna Marin said.

An overwhelming majority of Finnish parliamentarians support the decision, after Marin’s Social Democratic Party on Saturday said they were in favor of membership.

“We hope to be able to send our questions next week together with Sweden,” Marin said on Saturday.

The two Nordic countries broke their strict neutrality after the end of the Cold War by joining the EU and becoming a NATO partner in the 1990s, consolidating their affiliation with the West.

But the concept of full NATO membership was not a start in countries until the war in Ukraine saw public and political support for joining the military alliance skyrocket.

Finland, which shares a 1,300-kilometer border with Russia, led the charge, while Sweden appears eager to be the only non-NATO country around the Baltic Sea.

Many Swedish politicians have even said that their support is conditional on Finland’s accession.

On Saturday, the Finnish head of state phoned his Russian counterpart, President Vladimir Putin, to inform him of his country’s desire to join NATO, in a conversation defined as “direct and direct”.

“Avoiding tensions was considered important,” Niinisto said in a statement from his office.

But Putin responded by warning that NATO membership “would be a mistake since there is no threat to Finland’s security,” according to a Kremlin statement.

On Sunday, Niinisto said that while Finland expects Russia to respond to its decision, “little by little, I am beginning to think that we will not face any real military operations”.

“After the phone call with Putin, I think so even more”.

No other choice

According to recent polls, the number of Finns wanting to join the alliance has risen to over three-quarters, nearly three times the level seen before the war in Ukraine.

In Sweden, too, support has increased dramatically, to around 50 percent, with around 20 percent not.

The senior leadership of the Swedish Social Democrats, led by Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, will meet on Sunday afternoon to decide whether the party should abandon its historic stance against membership, last reiterated at the party’s annual congress in November.

The green light from the ruling Social Democrats would secure a solid majority in the Swedish parliament in favor of membership.

While key party politicians seemed poised to reverse the decision, critical voices within denounced the policy change as being rushed.

But analysts say the party is unlikely to oppose the move.

“Maybe there won’t be the same sense of urgency,” as in Finland, defense researcher Robert Dalsjo, analyst at the Swedish Defense Research Institute (FOI), told AFP.

“But the Swedish leaders have realized that they really don’t have another choice once Finland has made it,” he added.

NATO membership must be approved and ratified by all 30 members of the alliance.

While Finland and Sweden say they have received favorable signals from Ankara, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed his opposition.

Turkey’s objections, notably addressed to Stockholm, focus on what it considers the leniency of countries towards the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is on the EU’s list of terrorist organizations.

However, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said he was ready to discuss the matter with both countries, as well as with other NATO nations.

Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said he was “confident” of reaching an agreement with Turkey.