Finland announces NATO bid, Blinken joins talks in Berlin

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BERLIN – Finland on Sunday formally announced its intention to join the NATO alliance, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine dramatically changed security considerations in Europe and ended decades of military disarmament in the Nordic country.

Speaking at a news conference with the country’s Prime Minister Sanaa Marin in Helsinki, Finnish President Sauli Ninisto described it as a “historic day”.

The decision still needs to be approved by the Finnish parliament – but it is still considered a formality.

It represents a fundamental shift in military thinking in Northern Europe following the invasion of Ukraine by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Amid Moscow’s threat of a further NATO expansion, Finland, which shares more than 800 miles of border with Russia, has been reluctant to join the 30-nation military alliance since its formation in 1949.

But since the entry of Russian tanks into Ukraine in late February, support among the Finnish people for joining NATO has increased.

“Finland will do its utmost to ensure its security,” Niinisto said. The Marines described it as an “important decision.”

“We still have a parliamentary process ahead of us in Finland, but I believe the parliament will discuss its determination and responsibility for this historic decision,” he said.

The announcement came during a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Berlin to discuss the membership of Finland and Sweden. Sweden, which is closely coordinating its decision to join the military alliance with Helsinki, is expected to follow suit.

Finnish leaders said Thursday that countries should join NATO without delay, but the official decision came after the president and a committee on foreign and security policy finalized a report on Finland’s accession to the alliance. The report will be submitted to Parliament on Monday.

Consensus is needed to approve new NATO members, and Turkey has expressed doubts about Finland and Sweden joining the alliance.

U.S. officials are hoping to bridge the gap between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s remarks that Sweden and Finland are “hotbeds of many terrorist organizations.”

The remarks, citing the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, a militant group known as the PKK, were seen as a threat to veto any NATO expansion in Turkey.

An adviser to Erdogan told Reuters: “We are not closing the door. However, we are raising this issue as a matter of national security in Turkey. “

And in Berlin on Sunday, officials from other NATO countries expressed hope that the process would move forward.

German Foreign Minister Analena Bayerbock said the two countries could join “very quickly” if they made the decision.

“It’s more than opening our doors and if their parliament and their society decide to join NATO, it will make us stronger,” he said. Germany is ready to do whatever it can for a “quick ratification process,” he added.

During the Berlin meeting, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken met with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kulebar to discuss military assistance to Ukraine and the continuation of food exports to the developing world.

After the meeting, Kuleba tweeted, “More weapons and other aid are on the way to Ukraine.” “We have agreed to work together to ensure that Ukrainian food exports reach consumers in Africa and Asia.”

The State Department said Blinken had “detailed the latest round of US security assistance to strengthen Ukraine’s defense” and discussed possible solutions for Ukraine’s grain exports to international markets. The ongoing fight in Ukraine, a major food exporter, is linked to rising food prices and inflation in the developing world.

President Biden is expected to sign a 40 40 billion security package for Ukraine in the coming days after passing it in the Senate.

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