BERLIN (AP) — A senior NATO official said on Sunday that the Russian military advance in Ukraine seems to be weakening and he expressed hope that kyiv can win the war, as Russia’s neighbor Finland has announced that it wants to join the Western military alliance.
Senior NATO diplomats meet in Berlin on Sunday to discuss further support for Ukraine and steps taken by Finland, Sweden and others to join NATO in the face of threats from Russia.
“The brutal invasion (by) Russia is losing momentum,” NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoana told reporters. “We know that with the bravery of the Ukrainian people and army, and with our help, Ukraine can win this war.”
Finland’s president and government announced on Sunday that the previously neutral Nordic country, which shares a long border with Russia, intends to apply for NATO membership, paving the way for the alliance to expand. Western military of 30 members.
President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin made the announcement during a joint press conference at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki.
“It’s a historic day. A new era begins,” Niinisto said.
Finland’s parliament is expected to approve the decision in the coming days, but this is considered a formality.
A formal membership application will then be submitted to NATO headquarters in Brussels, most likely sometime next week.
Geoana, who was chairing the meeting while NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was recovering from COVID-19 infection, said Ukraine supporters were “united, we are strong, we will continue to help Ukraine win this war”.
NATO’s expansion beyond its current 30 member states is one of the main issues being discussed in Berlin.
Sweden has also already taken steps towards joining the alliance, while Georgia’s candidacy is again the subject of discussion despite dire warnings from Moscow about the consequences of its neighbor joining NATO.
“Finland and Sweden are already NATO’s closest partners,” Geoana said, adding that he expected the allies to view their candidacies positively.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said her country and others made it clear over dinner on Saturday evening that they would be willing to speed up the national ratification process for Finland and Sweden.
“If these two countries decide to join, they can join very quickly,” she said.
Denmark’s foreign minister dismissed suggestions that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s objections could prevent the alliance from welcoming new members.
“Each European country has the fundamental right to choose its own security apparatus,” Jeppe Kofod told reporters.
“We now see a world where the number one enemy of democracy is Putin and the thought he represents,” he said, adding that NATO would also stand with other countries, such as the Georgia, who he said were “instrumentalised” by Russia. .
On the sidelines of the meeting, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba earlier on Sunday to discuss the impact of the war and how to get Ukrainian grain to international markets.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said Blinken “underscored the enduring commitment of the United States to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s unprovoked war.” .
Britain’s top diplomat said NATO members would also discuss security issues beyond Europe when they meet on Sunday – a reference to growing unease among democratic nations over the rise of China.
“In addition to protecting Euro-Atlantic security, we must also look after Indo-Pacific security,” Foreign Minister Liz Truss said.
The meeting follows a meeting of foreign ministers from the major Group of Seven economies on Germany’s Baltic Sea coast this week. Officials there expressed strong support for Ukraine and warned that Russia’s blockade of grain exports from Ukrainian ports risked fueling a global food crisis..
Tanner reported from Helsinki. AP diplomatic writer Matthew Lee contributed from Berlin.
Follow AP coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine