Finland is heading for a historic decision to join NATO. Finnish President Niinistö and Prime Minister Marin said in a statement on Thursday that they favoured a swift joining of the alliance.
Due to a turbulent history with neighbouring Russia, Finland has had a tradition of neutrality for decades. The Scandinavian country wanted nothing to do with NATO for a long time, but because of the war in Ukraine, the thinking among politicians and the population has suddenly changed.
“Ukraine has shown that it is prepared to attack a neighbouring country,” President Niinistö said during a press conference with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. “The message from Russia at the beginning of this year that Finland and Sweden should not be allowed to join has made us think.”
Putin has long made no secret that NATO enlargement is out of the question for him. The Finnish president is not sensitive to this: “My message would be: look in the mirror; you brought this on yourself.”
Finland is not there yet with the personal views of the President and Prime Minister. On Saturday, the ruling Social Democrats will consider NATO’s aspirations. Finnish media expects the president and government to decide on an application to join on Sunday.
“We hope that the national steps still needed to reach this solution will be taken quickly in the coming days,” the Finnish president and prime minister said on Thursday.
Sweden will also consider a membership application on Sunday. Both countries are expected to join at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels. Behind the scenes, talks have been going on for weeks to ensure an extra fast admission. Negotiations may start as early as this month, after which the current 30 member states have yet to ratify the treaty.
Until then, Finland and Sweden cannot invoke the famous Article 5 of the Washington Treaty: an attack on one is an attack on all. The two countries are in a so-called ‘grey zone’ during ratification by the existing member states. The Americans and British have already pledged to guarantee security during this vulnerable period.
Finland is no stranger to NATO. Since the Russian annexation of Crimea, the country has been working more closely with the Western alliance.