In the joint statement, Niinisto and Marin said, “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. making this decision will be made quickly in the coming days.”
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, public support for NATO membership in Finland has risen from around 30% to almost 80% in some polls.
Once parliament approves the idea in principle and all other national legislative hurdles have been removed, NATO is expected to invite Finland to negotiate membership.
Finland’s western neighbor Sweden is also expected to soon announce its intention to join the alliance through a similar process.
Russia has warned both countries against joining NATO, saying there will be consequences.
European diplomats and security officials widely assume that Finland could join the alliance quickly once negotiations begin, as it has been buying compatible military equipment from its Western allies, including the United States, for decades and responds already meet many membership criteria.
Finland’s NATO membership would have both practical and symbolic consequences for Russia and the Western alliance.
Since the end of World War II, Finland has been militarily non-aligned and nominally neutral to avoid provoking Russia. He sometimes indulged in Kremlin security concerns and tried to maintain good trade relations.
The war in Ukraine, however, has shifted the calculus enough that NATO membership now seems the best way forward, regardless of Russia’s reaction.
European defense officials who have spoken to CNN in recent months assume that NATO countries will offer certain guarantees regarding Finland’s security during the accession process, in case Russia retaliates before it officially joins.
On Wednesday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced new security pacts with Finland and Sweden, pledging to come to the aid of either country if either came under attack.
Finland has always had high defense spending and still has a policy of conscription, with all adult males eligible for military service. It is widely recognized among NATO officials that Finland’s membership in the alliance would be a significant boost in the fight against Russian aggression due to the seriousness with which the country has historically treated its own security. .
It also shares more than 800 miles of border with Russia, which is significant because the Kremlin said before invading Ukraine that it wanted to see NATO return its borders to where they were in the 1990s.
Instead, President Vladimir Putin’s gamble could result in a stronger NATO coming together.