Finland has just announced it will officially seek to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
In a joint press conference on Sunday morning, Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin confirmed that the Nordic country intends to apply for NATO membership.
The move comes despite threats from Russia over joining the global alliance.
The decision is a stunning reversal of Finland’s policy on military non-alignment dating back more than 75 years.
It comes less than three months after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his troops into Ukraine on February 24.
Niinisto and 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 following a swell in public support for doing so.
A formal membership application will then be submitted to NATO headquarters in Brussels, most likely at some point next week.
Many Swedish politicians have said their support is conditional on Finland joining.
Sweden’s governing party also plans to announce its position on seeking NATO membership later today and is expected to also announce its intention to join.
The two nonaligned Nordic nations becoming part of the alliance would pose an affront to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has justified the war in Ukraine by claiming it was a response to NATO’s expansion in Eastern Europe.
Finland shares an 830-mile border with Russia.
Should Finland’s application be ratified, Russia’s border with NATO would roughly double in length.
Yesterday, Putin told the President of Finland he is making a “mistake” by joining NATO as it faces “no security threats” in a phone call.
President Niinistö said his conversation with Putin was “conducted without aggravations” as both parties worked to “avoid tensions.”
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and cyber-attacks on Finland and Sweden have “altered the security environment” in Helsinki, Putin was told.
‘Today, the President of the Republic and the Government’s Foreign Policy Committee have jointly agreed that Finland will apply for NATO membership, after consulting parliament,” Niinisto said.
“This is a historic day. A new era is opening.”
“We have reached today an important decision in good cooperation with the government and the president of the republic,” Prime Minister Sanna Marin said.
“We hope the parliament will confirm the decision to apply for the NATO membership during the coming days.
“It will be based on a strong mandate.”
Finland has remained militarily non-aligned for 75 years.
But after its powerful eastern neighbor invaded Ukraine in February, political and public opinion swung dramatically in favor of membership.
On Thursday, the Finnish president and prime minister said they would be calling for the country to join NATO “without delay.”
Russia has repeatedly warned of consequences if Helsinki joins the alliance, but earlier this week, Niinisto told reporters that “joining NATO would not be against anyone.”
He said his response to Russia is: “You caused this. Look in the mirror.”
NATO’s deputy chief said on Sunday that the alliance is confident that it can overcome objections by Turkey and quickly admit Finland and Sweden.
Foreign ministers from NATO’s 30 member states are holding two days of talks this weekend in Berlin that are focused on the two Nordic countries’ membership bids.
Meanwhile, Western military officials said Sunday that Moscow’s campaign in Ukraine, believed to have been launched with the goal of seizing Kyiv and toppling the Ukrainian government, had slowed to a snail’s pace.
They said the invading Russian army had lost up to one-third of its combat strength since February.