Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto is expected to give a go-ahead to Helsinki joining the NATO military alliance, marking a major shift in security policy.
Finland, which shares a 810 mile (1,300 km) border with Russia, has gradually stepped up its cooperation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as a partner following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.
It had refrained from joining NATO in order to maintain friendly relations with Russia.
Since Niinisto leads Finland’s foreign policy in cooperation with the government under the constitution, his stance is considered decisive. Finland’s government and parliament are expected to greenlight their approvals shortly.
“My message is clear: Finland will ensure its security. That is not to anyone’s detriment,” said Niinisto last week after meeting with the parliament’s defence committee.
Last month, in an interview with Finnish newspaper Ilta-Sanomat he said: “If it happens as it looks likely that Finland and Sweden will join (NATO), then it will create a new kind of North for us, one that is responsible, stable and strong,” said Niinisto.
Sweden’s ruling Social Democrats is expected to decide on May 15 whether it will join NATO.
Russia has repeatedly warned both countries to not join the alliance. On March 12, 2022, Russia’s foreign ministry had said “there will be serious military and political consequences” if Sweden and Finland join NATO.
“In my international discussions during this spring, I have received encouraging support for Finland’s solutions. These discussions will also continue,” said Niinisto in a statement.
In a statement NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg had previously said, it would be possible to allow Finland and Sweden to join NATO “quite quickly”.