Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin say they support joining the NATO military alliance, abandoning decades of neutrality for the Nordic country, which shares a long border with Russia.
“NATO membership would strengthen Finland’s security. As a member of NATO, Finland would strengthen the entire defense alliance. 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 two leaders said in a joint statement on May 12.
Debate on joining NATO was sparked by growing security fears after Russia launched an unprovoked invasion of its neighbor Ukraine in February.
Sweden is also expected to announce its intention to join NATO in the coming days.
While no formal date is expected to be announced immediately for when accession could take place, NATO will hold a summit in Madrid on June 28-29.
NATO officials have indicated that the accession protocols for Finland and Sweden could be signed at that time if the formal applications landed on NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg’s desk by the end of May.
Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen quickly applauded the joint statement, saying his country will “warmly welcome” Finland to NATO as the move will strengthen the alliance and “our common security.”
“Denmark will do everything for a quick admission process after the formal application,” he added in a tweet.
Finland and Sweden are expected to experience few problems integrating into the alliance.
Both have been in NATO’s Partnership for Peace program since 1994, and its Enhanced Opportunity Partners 20 years later. The two structures ensure smoother cooperation with NATO for countries not part of the alliance.
The membership ratification process normally takes about a year, as the national parliaments of all 30 NATO members must debate and vote on the issue — frequently after first debating it in committee.
But high-ranking politicians and officials from both Sweden and Finland have been busy touring various NATO capitals in recent months to request considerably accelerated processes.