Photo: ALESSANDRO RAMPAZZO/AFP/Getty Images
The president of Finland, Sauli Niinistö, and the Finnish government officially confirmed this Sunday their intention to apply for NATO membership despite threats from Russia, a decision that ends almost eight decades of non-alignment.
“Today is a historic day, a new era opens. A protected Finland is born as part of a stable Nordic region, strong and aware of its responsibilities”, said Niinistö at a press conference together with the Prime Minister, the Social Democrat Sanna Marin.
Niinistö described the process of integration into NATO, which has the majority support of citizens, political parties and the deputies of the Eduskunta (Finnish Parliament), as “a test of the power of democracy”.
“Finland is going to maximize its security, and this is not to anyone’s detriment,” said the president, in a veiled allusion to neighboring Russia, which sees Finland’s entry into NATO as a threat.
The Nordic country justifies its decision by the radical change in the European security environment, which emerged as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the repeated threats from Moscow, including the deployment of nuclear weapons, to try to stop NATO’s expansion towards its borders.
“We see a very different Russia than before the Ukraine war. Everything has changed, we cannot trust that the Russian neighbor will be peaceful if we are left alone. We made the decision to join NATO so that there will never be any more wars in Finland,” Prime Minister Marin said.
The head of the Finnish Government assured that her country has been preparing for several months to face Russian threats, in parallel with the public debate on NATO, although she trusts that they will not materialize.
“The nuclear threat is very serious, but I believe that the decision to join NATO will strengthen our security, also in nuclear matters, instead of weakening it,” Marin said of the possibility of Moscow launching a nuclear attack on his country.
Nevertheless, The Finnish position does not quite convince Russian President Vladimir Putin, who on Saturday reiterated in a telephone conversation with Niinistö that Finland’s entry into NATO is “a mistake”, because Moscow would not be a threat to the Nordic country if it maintain its neutrality.
Other steps for the accession process
The request to join NATO still has to be ratified by the Eduskunta (Parliament), although it is expected to achieve broad support given the great consensus that exists between the political parties.
All formations with parliamentary representation have been favorable to entry, with the exception of the minority Alliance of the Left, which has not yet made a statement, so it is expected that the candidacy will obtain a resounding majority in the Eduskunta.
The final vote is expected to take place on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday of next week, depending on how long the preliminary parliamentary debate that begins on Monday lasts.
From there, it will be up to the 30 NATO member countries to unanimously accept Finland’s entry, which will probably be joined by neighboring Sweden – which is also finalizing its application process these days – in a process that may take several months.
Extensive NATO support
The entry into the Alliance of Finland and Sweden has the explicit support of the vast majority of the 30 member countries of NATO, including Spain.
Until now, only the presidents of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Croatia, Zoran Milanovic, have been critical of the entry of both Nordic nations into NATO, although the Croatian government is in favor of expansion.
Several Alliance powers, including the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany, have gone further and have pledged their support to Finland and Sweden in the event of a possible Russian attack during the ratification process, before being covered by the clause of NATO mutual assistance.
According to Niinistö, the president of the United States, Joe Biden, has promised him “all the help that Finland asks for and Washington is capable of giving”, although he admitted that the White House cannot offer written security guarantees without the support of the Senate.
The Finnish president thanked Biden this Sunday for the “sophisticated way” in which he has shown his support for the candidacies of Finland and Sweden, without falling into the Kremlin’s provocations so as not to increase tensions with Russia.
The one who has expressed its commitment to Finland and Sweden in a legal document is the United Kingdom, whose Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, signed two bilateral mutual assistance agreements this week that include military support in the event of an armed aggression.