Finland will formally apply for NATO membership on May 18, according to a statement from Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto. “Our permanent representative to NATO in Brussels will do this [apply] possibly on Wednesday. If talks with NATO begin, they will be taken care of by a delegation led by the foreign minister and the defense minister,” Haavisto told the Aftonbladet newspaper.
Talks of Finland’s inclusion in NATO accelerated after the war in wider Ukraine began. Klaus Korhonen, the Finnish envoy to NATO, stated that the country’s decision to join the alliance stems from the “very drastic change in the security environment amid the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine,” in an April statement.
Finland’s ascension has since garnered support from President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin. “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,” the two recently said in a joint statement.
The Finnish Parliament will now vote on whether to join the alliance in the next couple days. The measure is expected to pass.
Finland has long maintained a position of neutrality, though the nation now views Russia as an ever-increasing national security threat. On Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin told Niinistö that such a move would be a “mistake”, claiming that Russia has no intention of threatening the nation’s national security.
Russia has repeatedly warned of “consequences” if Finland joins the alliance. “Helsinki must be aware of the responsibility and consequences of such a move,” said the Russian Foreign Ministry in a statement last Thursday. “Russia will be forced to take retaliatory steps, both of a military-technical and other nature, in order to stop the threats to its national security that arise in this regard.”
Swedish politicians have expressed their desire to join the alliance as well, ending their own longstanding policy of neutrality. While the two Nordic nations have been welcomed by the vast majority of NATO members, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has said his nation does not support the move. He has accused the nations of harboring “extremist organizations”, citing support given to Kurdish militias in the fight against ISIS.
Perspective nations must be unanimously accepted by NATO members.