Finnish leaders have backed a NATO bid in response to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine

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Finnish leaders announced on Thursday that they would seek NATO membership for the Nordic nation as soon as possible – a remarkable move that would have far-reaching effects on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay,” Finnish President Sauli Ninistটো and Prime Minister Sanaa Marin said in a statement after weeks of talks on whether to aim for a traditionally neutral country, which would be a tectonic change for the military alliance and Europe’s security. Order

“Russia’s ongoing war threatens the security and stability of the whole of Europe,” Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Havisto told European lawmakers on Thursday. “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has changed the European and Finnish security environment.” Ninisto and the Marines say Finland’s membership in NATO will strengthen the entire defense alliance.

The Kremlin immediately retaliated, saying Finland’s accession to NATO would “certainly” threaten Russia’s security – as European leaders said they would welcome the new addition and that NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg would submit a petition to Helsinki, predicting a smooth process.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has cited NATO expansionism as the reason for his aggression in Ukraine. Finland’s accession to the alliance will double its land border with Russia.

“NATO expansion does not make our continent more stable and secure,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Thursday, according to Russian news outlet Interfax. Peskov said Russia could take new measures to “balance the situation” if Finland joined the alliance.

“NATO is moving towards us,” he said.

A green light from Finland’s leaders is the first step towards a formal petition, the proposal also needs the approval of the country’s parliament. “We hope that national action will still be taken quickly in the next few days to make this decision,” Ninisto and Marin said in a statement. Their announcement comes a day after Helsinki signed a mutual security agreement with London.

How Putin’s brutal war in Ukraine pushed Finland towards NATO

Stoltenberg said that if Finland applied to join NATO, the process would be “smooth and fast”, according to Reuters. “Finland is one of NATO’s closest partners, a mature democracy, a member of the European Union and a key contributor to Euro-Atlantic security.”

Havisto said Finland did not face an “immediate military threat”.

However, following Finland’s announcement, Russia said it would “take retaliatory action” if Finland formally joined NATO.

Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Thursday that “Finland’s accession to NATO would be a serious blow to bilateral Russian-Finnish relations and the” stability and security “of northern Europe.” The emerging threat to its national security can be prevented. “

The ministry called the Finnish leaders’ decision to join NATO “a radical change” in Finland’s foreign policy and said it served both Moscow and Helsinki well, against a long-established tradition of incoherence.

Meanwhile, Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s deputy chairman of the Security Council and former Russian president, said NATO’s support for Ukraine and conducting military exercises in Russia’s border countries “increases the likelihood of direct and open conflict between NATO and Russia.”

“Such conflicts are always at risk of turning into a full-blown nuclear war,” Medvedev said.

A top U.S. intelligence official told senators Tuesday that Russia could threaten more nuclear weapons exercises if Washington ignores its warnings not to intervene in Ukraine, but said he does not believe Putin’s impending threat of using nuclear weapons in Ukraine is imminent.

“We otherwise believe that Putin would probably approve the use of nuclear weapons if he felt an existential threat,” said Avril Haynes, director of national intelligence.

Putin prepares for “long-term” conflict, says US intelligence chief

The move by Finnish leaders underscores the extent to which Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has changed Europe’s security landscape, and comes a day after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed a defense pact with Finland and Sweden, a day after promising to help. Crisis or attack.

Ninisto Says On Thursday, he informed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky of his support for Finnish membership in NATO. Zelensky said he “appreciated” the move.

In the capitals of the European Union and other NATO countries, Finnish leaders welcomed the statement, expressing support and promising to keep Finland’s application process as short as possible.

European Council President Charles Mitchell said Finland’s accession to NATO would “greatly contribute to European security.”

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielles Landsbergis, Says “NATO is going to be stronger, while the Baltic region is going to be more secure.”

The Prime Minister of Denmark is Mate Fredericksen Says His country would “warmly welcome Finland to NATO” and “do everything possible to speed up the process of joining after the formal application.”

NATO leaders say Finland, which shares an 800-mile border with Russia, will welcome the alliance if they decide to join. Neighboring Sweden is also moving closer to NATO due to the war in Ukraine, and the Swedish tabloid Express reports that Sweden’s decision to join the defense alliance could come as early as Monday, citing unnamed sources.

Sweden’s foreign minister, Anne Linde, says her country should “accept.” [the Finnish] Consider evaluation when deciding on NATO membership.

Now that Finnish leaders have expressed their support for a NATO membership bid, the Cabinet Committee on Foreign and Security Policy will formally decide with the President of Finland whether the country will apply, then submit a proposal to lawmakers. The committee will meet on Sunday, the Agence France-Presse reported, citing the Finnish newspaper Iltalehti.

The Finnish parliament’s defense committee has already recommended joining NATO, while major parliamentary parties have also backed a military alliance. Finland also has high support for joining NATO, and has been growing since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Several Finnish lawmakers and officials on Thursday expressed their support for the position of Finnish leaders. Defense Minister Aunty Kaikonen Says “NATO membership significantly extends the border of military aggression for Finland.”

Lee Anderson, chair of the Left Alliance in Finland’s parliament, who is embroiled in internal controversy over the possibility of NATO membership, wrote that he was ready to support it.

“I am ready to accept Finland’s NATO membership because it is the will of the Finnish people and a clear majority in the Finnish parliament,” Anderson said.

Jacqueline Pizer and Andrew Jiang contributed to this report.

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