Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin have announced that Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay after Russia’s war in Ukraine sparked a sudden u-turn in opinion The Trumpet gathered.
“Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay,” Finnish President and Prime Minister said in a joint statement.
“We hope that the national steps still needed to make this decision will be taken rapidly within the next few days.”
Finland, which shares a 1,300 km (810 miles) border and a difficult past with Russia, has gradually stepped up its cooperation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Until Russia invaded Ukraine, the Nordic country had avoided joining NATO to maintain friendly relations with its eastern neighbour.
The view among Finns on membership of the organisation has changed rapidly after Russia initiated what it calls a “special operation” in Ukraine.
An opinion poll published by public broadcaster YLE showed that 76 percent of Finns are in support of joining the alliance and just 12 percent against it.
“NATO membership would strengthen Finland’s security. As a member, Finland would strengthen the entire defence alliance,” the statement said.
A special committee will announce Finland’s formal decision on a membership bid on Sunday, the statement added.
Read Also: Zoning: PDP has dug its own grave – PANDEF
The two leaders had been widely expected to come out in favour of joining the Western military alliance.
“Joining NATO would not be against anyone,” Niinisto told reporters on Wednesday, amid Russian warnings of consequences if Helsinki were to seek membership.
On Wednesday, the Finnish parliament’s defence committee also concluded that membership of NATO would be the “best option” for Finland’s security, as the Russian invasion had destroyed the security situation in Europe.
A large majority in Finland’s parliament backs the membership.
Sweden is also contemplating joining the military alliance and the two countries are widely expected to present a joint bid.
NATO expansion is bound to spark anger from Vladimir Putin, who has warned Sweden and Finland against joining. The Kremlin has warned of “military and political repercussions” if Sweden and Finland decide to join NATO.
The UK on Wednesday pledged to come to the aid of Sweden and Finland if the two Nordic nations came under attack.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the countries must be free to decide whether to join NATO without “fear of retaliation”.
Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg has said the military alliance would welcome Finland and Sweden both of which have strong, modern militaries with open arms and expects the accession process to be speedy and smooth.