Finland confirms it will apply to join Nato as Sweden set to follow

AFP/The Local
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Finland confirms it will apply to join Nato as Sweden set to follow
Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin and Finland's President Sauli Niinistö give a press conference to announce that Finland will apply for NATO membership at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland on May 15th, 2022. Moscow's invasion of Ukraine on February 24th, 2022 has swung political and public opinion in Finland and Sweden in favour of NATO membership as a deterrent against Russian aggression. Photo: Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva / AFP

Finland's President Sauli Niinisto confirmed on Sunday that his country would apply for membership of the Nato military alliance as Sweden's ruling party was to hold a decisive meeting that could pave the way for a joint application.


The announcement came after Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin said on Thursday they both favoured Nato membership, in a major policy shift prompted by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"Today, we, the president and the government's foreign policy committee, have together decided that Finland ... will apply for Nato membership," Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Sanna Marin in Helsinki on Sunday.

"I have great feelings, of course, this is an historic day. It started in the morning when I visited the memorial service to honour Finland's fallen heroes", Niinistö told reporters.

Niinistö said that the decision will secure Finland's security policy and that it "does not disadvantage anyone".


Niinisto called Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday to tell him of Finland's plans to join the alliance in a conversation described as “direct and straightforward”.

"I, or Finland, are not known to sneak around and quietly disappear behind a corner. It is better to say it straight what already has been said, also to the concerned party and that is what I wanted to do," he said about his call.

But Putin responded by warning that joining Nato “would be a mistake since there is no threat to Finland’s security”, according to a Kremlin statement.

Niinisto said on Sunday that while Helsinki is prepared for a Russian response, "little by little, I'm beginning to think that we're not going to face actual military operations." 

"After the phone call with Putin, I think so even more."


Finland's parliament will convene to debate the membership proposal on Monday.

"We hope the parliament will confirm the decision to apply for Nato membership during the coming days. It will be based on a strong mandate", Prime Minister Sanna Marin said.

An overwhelming majority of Finnish MPs back the decision, after Marin's Social Democratic Party on Saturday said it was in favour of membership.

"Hopefully we can send our applications next week together with Sweden," Marin said on Saturday.

Sweden meeting

Many Swedish politicians have said their support for joining Nato is conditional on Finland joining.

The senior leadership of Sweden’s Social Democrats, led by Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, is due to meet on Sunday afternoon to decide whether the party should abandon its historic stance against joining, last reaffirmed at the party’s annual congress in November. A decision will be announced at 6 pm on Sunday.

A green light from the ruling Social Democrats would secure a firm majority in Sweden’s parliament in favour of joining.

While the party’s leading politicians have seemed ready to reverse the decision, critical voices within have denounced the change in policy as rushed.

But analysts say it is unlikely that the party will oppose the move.

“There will perhaps not be the same sense of urgency” as in Finland, defence researcher Robert Dalsjo, an analyst at the Swedish Defence Research Institute (FOI), told AFP.

“But the leaders in Sweden have realised that they really don’t have another choice, once Finland has,” he added.

Turkey not blocking Sweden, Finland bids

NATO membership needs to be approved and ratified by all 30 members of the alliance. Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed last-minute objections but NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Sunday that Ankara was not opposed to the two countries' bids.

"Turkey made it clear that its intention is not to block membership," Stoltenberg told reporters virtually after alliance foreign ministers met in Berlin.

"I am confident we'll be able to find common ground, consensus on how to move on membership issues," Stoltenberg said, adding that he was in touch with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

Cavusoglu meanwhile lauded Finland's conciliatory approach in their talks, but criticised Sweden's foreign minister for "provocative" statements.

Turkey's objections, directed in particular at Stockholm, focus on what it considers to be the countries' leniency towards the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which is on the EU's list of terrorist organisations.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken nonetheless insisted he was "very confident that we will reach consensus" on the two countries' NATO bids.

Niinisto said he was "prepared to have a new discussion with President Erdogan about the problems he has raised".

Stoltenberg meanwhile reiterated on Sunday that NATO would look at providing security guarantees for Finland and Sweden during the interim period from their application for membership to accession.

According to recent polls, the number of Finns who want to join the alliance has risen to over three-quarters, triple the level seen before the war in Ukraine.

Former Finnish prime minister Alexander Stubb told the BBC on Sunday that Putin was "the reason we're joining" NATO. "We could easily call it Vladimir Putin's NATO enlargement", he said.

In Sweden, support to join NATO has also risen dramatically, to around 50 percent — with about 20 percent against.


TIMETABLE: Sweden’s big day for Nato membership

KEY POINTS: Five things to know about Sweden and Nato




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Anonymous 2022/05/15 13:32
I do not understand the madness of this rubbish . Turkey has made it known tHat it will use it's Veto Power to block Sweden and Finland joinig NATO . Not one Western News Channel has mentioned this so without Turkey's support this is FAKE NEWS . Go to WION and read the Truth not these Western outlets owned by Big Business . A No is a No Sweden and Finland and the President of Turkey has not change his mind so why the lies .

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