Finland’s president and prime minister have called for the country to apply for NATO membership “without delay” in a joint statement on Thursday.
Sauli Niinisto and Sanna Marin said they expected a decision in the next few days amid a surge in public support for NATO membership following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Finland will formally announce its decision on Sunday after it has been considered by parliament and other senior political figures. Sweden has said it will announce a similar decision on the same day.
Finland shares a 1,300-km (810-mile) border with Russia. Until quite recently, it has stayed out of NATO to avoid antagonizing its eastern neighbor. Sweden does not share a border with Russia, but the strategic island of Gottland in the Baltic Sea could make Sweden vulnerable should a conflict erupt in the region.
Russia has threatened unspecified measures if the two governments abandon their long-standing policy of military non-alignment.
However, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said he expects the process of giving Sweden and Finland membership to happen “quite quickly.”
NATO will move right on Russia’s doorstep with the addition of Finland, Sweden
With the addition of Finland and Sweden into NATO, the Alliance would have two new members right on Russia’s doorstep.
Such an expansion by the Western military alliance would leave Russia surrounded by NATO countries in the Baltic Sea and the Arctic, as well as represent a serious setback for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
All thirty members of NATO would need to ratify the country’s membership. This could take anywhere from a few months to a year. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said the door for membership remains open.
Russia warns Nordic countries to stay out of NATO
Russia has warned Finland and Sweden against joining NATO, arguing the move would not bring stability to Europe.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that “the alliance remains a tool geared towards confrontation.”
Peskov warned the bloc “is not that kind of alliance which ensures peace and stability, and its further expansion will not bring additional security to the European continent.”
Last week, Peskov said that Russia would have to “rebalance the situation” with its own measures were Sweden and Finland to join NATO.
In February, Maria Zakharova, Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman, warned of “military and political consequences” if the countries joined the bloc.