Finland's President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin held a press conference to formally announce Sunday their country wants to join NATO. "This is a historic day. A new era begins," Niinisto said. This after the two initially signaled Finland's intent to apply starting Thursday, and now the decision will await Finnish parliament endorsement, expected in the coming days, which is widely being seen as but a formality.
Crucially the announcement confirmed that Finland's large powerful neighbor Russia has been informed. "President Niinistö told President Putin how fundamentally the Russian demands in late 2021 aiming at preventing countries from joining NATO and Russia’s massive invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 have altered the security environment of Finland," a statement indicated.
"The conversation was direct and straight-forward and it was conducted without aggravations. Avoiding tensions was considered important," President Niinistö said of the Saturday phone call initiated by the Finnish side.
Putin was notified that the Scandinavian country will "seek NATO membership in the next few days," and that "By joining NATO Finland strengthens its own security and assumes its responsibility. It is not away from anyone else," according to a call readout.
The response from a summit of NATO top diplomats, currently meeting in Berlin to discuss both Ukraine developments and Finland's path into NATO, was immediately positive.
"The brutal invasion (by) Russia is losing momentum," NATO Deputy-Secretary General Mircea Geoana told reporters Sunday, standing in for Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who is recovering from a Covid-19 infection. "We know that with the bravery of the Ukrainian people and army, and with our help, Ukraine can win this war," he added.
NATO in 1990 versus 2015: pic.twitter.com/h06hCZyxNz— Liz Churchill🇨🇦 (@liz_churchill_) May 14, 2022
Recent reports say both Finland and Sweden will rely heavily on Washington's backing in their NATO membership bid. Some Western officials have even suggested they could be fast-tracked given the Russian threat. So far Turkey has been the only alliance country to significant push back.
In a Friday phone call President Joe Biden expressed his direct support to the leaders of Finland and Sweden in their bid to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Speaking with Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson of Sweden and Finland's Niinistö in the joint call, the US president "underscored his support for NATO’s Open Door policy and for the right of Finland and Sweden to decide their own future, foreign policy, and security arrangements," according to a call read-out.