Finland must apply to join Nato “without delay” in the wake of Russia’s attack on Ukraine, its president and prime minister have said, signalling a historic shift in the country’s security policy that drew a blunt warning of retaliation from the Kremlin.
With neighbouring Sweden expected to follow suit, Sauli Niinistö, Finland’s president, and Sanna Marin, the prime minister, made the call in a joint statement, adding: “We hope that the national steps still needed to make this decision will be taken rapidly within the next few days.”
Nato membership would strengthen Finland’s security, the two leaders said, and as a member of Nato, “Finland would strengthen the entire defence alliance. Finland must apply for Nato membership as a matter of urgency”.
The Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said Russia would “definitely” see Finnish membership as a threat, and the foreign ministry in Moscow said it would have to take “military-technical” steps if Helsinki applied for Nato accession. “The expansion of Nato and the approach of the alliance to our borders does not make the world and our continent more stable and secure,” Peskov said. “Everything will depend on how this process takes place, how far the military infrastructure moves towards our borders.”
Russia’s foreign ministry said Moscow would be “forced to take reciprocal steps … to address the resulting threats to its national security”. It accused Nato of seeking to create “another flank for the military threat to our country” and said Helsinki should “be aware of its responsibility and the consequences of such a move”. [Continue reading…]
Putin used the encroachment of NATO towards Russia’s borders as part of the justification for his invasion of Ukraine on February 24. Now his actions have galvanized the alliance in potentially raising its membership by two—Sweden is also likely to follow suit—and giving Putin the very thing he said he did not want.
“It’s the fundamental paradox of Russian action, that the result is precisely the opposite of what President Putin wanted to achieve,” said Keir Giles, a senior consulting fellow of the Russia and Eurasia Programme at London’s Chatham House think tank.
“This was clear even before he launched his invasion of Ukraine, because he wanted to intimidate his neighbors into not joining NATO. But military intimidation just demonstrated for them how important it was to be members of the alliance,” he told Newsweek.
“Every single time Russia throws its weight around and makes direct threats to Sweden and Finland, about NATO membership, support for membership ticks up.”
“It’s a symptom of President Putin’s detachment from reality and his inability to assess the real state of affairs in the world around him, either because of his own paranoia, or because he is fed inaccurate information by his circle,” Giles added. [Continue reading…]