Finland’s Leaders Call For NATO Membership ‘Without Delay’

finlands leaders call for nato membership without delay
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HELSINKI (AP) — Finland’s leaders said Thursday they’re in favor of rapidly applying for NATO membership, paving the way for a historic expansion of the alliance that could deal a serious blow to Russia as its military struggles with its war in Ukraine.

The dramatic move by Finland was announced by President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin. It means that Finland is all but certain to join NATO, though a few steps remain before the application process can begin. Neighboring Sweden is expected to decide on joining NATO in coming days.

“NATO membership would strengthen Finland’s security. As a member of NATO, Finland would strengthen the entire defence alliance,” Niinisto and Marin said in a joint statement. “Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay. We hope that the national steps still needed to make this decision will be taken rapidly within the next few days.”

The Kremlin reacted to the development a few hours later, saying that Finland’s move to join NATO won’t help stability and security in Europe. Finland shares a 1,340-kilometer (830-mile) land border with Russia.

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Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russia’s response to the move would depend on what specific steps NATO will take to bring its infrastructure close to Russian borders. He noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin already had ordered to work out steps to strengthen the country’s defenses in the west in response to NATO’s expansion closer to Russian territory.

Previously, the Kremlin had warned of “military and political repercussions” if Sweden and Finland decide to join NATO. Should they apply, there will be an interim period lasting from when an application has been handed in until all 30 NATO members’ parliaments have ratified it.

In NATO member Estonia, which also borders Russia, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas tweeted that “history being made by our northern neighbors.” She pledged to support “a rapid accession process” for Finland into NATO.

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Finland’s announcement came a day after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited both Finland and Sweden to sign a military cooperation agreement.

The U.K. pledged on Wednesday to come to the aid of Sweden and Finland if the two Nordic nations came under attack.

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