Finland‘s president and government announced Sunday that the Nordic country intends to apply for membership in Nato , paving the way for the 30-member western military alliance to expand amid Russia’s war in Ukraine.
President Sauli Niinisto and prime minister Sanna Marin made the announcement at a joint news conference at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki.
The Finnish Parliament is expected to endorse the decision in the coming days, but it is considered a formality.
A formal membership application will then be submitted to Nato headquarters in Brussels, most likely at the some point next week.
It comes after the Finnish leaders said this week that they’re in favor of rapidly applying for Nato membership. “Finland must apply for Nato membership without delay,” they said. “We hope that the national steps still needed to make this decision will be taken rapidly within the next few days.”
The announcement was met with threats from the Kremlin which shares a 800 mile border with Finland. Russia said it would take retaliatory “military-technical” steps after Finland’s leaders came out in favor of applying to join Nato, and Sweden could do the same within days, in a historic realignment triggered by Russia‘s invasion of Ukraine.
Russia’s foreign ministry described Finland’s move as “a radical change in the country’s foreign policy”.
“Finland’s accession to Nato will cause serious damage to bilateral Russian-Finnish relations and the maintaining of stability and security in the Northern European region,” the ministry said.
“Russia will be forced to take retaliatory steps, both of a military-technical and other nature, in order to neutralise the threats to its national security that arise from this.”
Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan also criticised Finland’s decision to apply for Nato membership, claiming it and neighbouring Sweden are “home to many terrorist organisations”.
The opposition from Mr Erdogan has the potential to thwart the potential bids from the two nations, since membership of the alliance hinges on unanimous agreement from all 30 member states. Turkey is a Nato member.
“We are following the developments regarding Sweden and Finland, but we don’t hold positive views,” Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul, adding it was a mistake for Nato to accept Greece as a member in the past.
“As Turkey, we don’t want to repeat similar mistakes. Furthermore, Scandinavian countries are guesthouses for terrorist organisations,” Mr Erdogan said, without expanding on any details of the claim.
“They are even members of the parliament in some countries. It is not possible for us to be in favour,” he added.
In the Kremlin’s fiercest rebuttal to Finland joining Nato, defence committee deputy chairman, Aleksey Zhuravlyov, warned that Russia could take out its perceived enemies within seconds using its new Sarmat intercontinental missile.
“If Finland wants to join this bloc, then our goal is absolutely legitimate – to question the existence of this state. This is logical,” Mr Zhuravlyov said in an interview with state TV Russia 1.
“If the United States threatens our state, it’s good: here is the Sarmat for you, and there will be nuclear ashes from you if you think that Russia should not exist. And Finland says that it is at one with the USA. Well, get in line.”
Asked if Russia would now rebase nuclear weapons onto its border with Finland, he said: “What for? We don’t need to.
“We can hit with a Sarmat from Siberia, and even reach the UK. And if we strike from Kaliningrad… the hypersonic’s reaching time is 200 seconds – so go ahead, guys.”