Previously, the country’s president and prime minister backed the idea to join the military bloc, noting, at the same time, that there is no military threat to Finland from Russia.
Finnish President Sauli Niinistö announced on Sunday that the Scandinavian nation will apply to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
“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. This is a historic day. A new era is opening”, he said.
Previously, he said that joining the bloc would undoubtedly “strengthen” Finland’s national security.
If Helsinki joins the alliance, it will end the decades-long policy of neutrality during which Finland enjoyed friendly political and economic relations with both the Western and Eastern blocs during the Cold War. Despite joining NATO’s “Partnership for Peace” programme in 1994, the country did not directly join the bloc, upholding its neutral status.
The decision comes as a response to the Russian special op in Ukraine, which was launched in February.
Addressing Sweden and Finland’s intentions to join the bloc, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said their applications would be adopted swiftly. Moscow, in turn, has already warned Finland that the move would lead to further militarisation of the region, noting that another step of NATO expansion constitutes a threat to Russia’s security.
NATO has expanded eastward for decades, despite guarantees granted to the former USSR by the bloc when West and East decided to end the Cold War. During several waves of expansion, the alliance incorporated 14 new countries, including all the ex-members of the dissolved Warsaw Pact, several post-Soviet countries and four republics of the former Yugoslavia.