Kremlin calls Finland’s NATO membership a threat to Russia
Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and Prime Minister Sanna Marin are in favor of their country’s “immediate” membership of NATO. Chancellor Scholz assures Finland of his “full support”. The Kremlin responded with a warning.
ENeighboring Russia sees Finland’s possible NATO membership as a threat, according to the Kremlin. “Further NATO enlargement will not make our continent more stable and secure,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Interfax on Thursday.
Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and Prime Minister Sanna Marin had previously spoken out in favor of their country’s immediate membership of NATO. It is now expected that Finland will formally decide to apply for membership in the next few days.
Russia will analyze the consequences of Finland joining NATO with a view to its own security, Peskov said. Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin has already instructed to bolster security on Russia’s western flank in preparation for NATO activities. “NATO is moving in our direction,” Peskow said. Everything now depends on how the NATO enlargement process develops and the military infrastructure transferred to Russia’s borders, he said.
According to the Foreign Ministry in Moscow, Russia will react to Finland joining NATO. “Finland’s NATO membership is a radical change in the country’s foreign policy,” the ministry said. “Russia will be compelled to take both military-technical and other countermeasures to stop growing threats to its national security.”
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called Finland’s political leaders’ desire to quickly join NATO “good news for Poland’s and Europe’s security”. “Poland is in favor of Finland joining the alliance as soon as possible,” Morawiecki said on Twitter on Thursday.
Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) announced that in a phone call to President Niinistö he had “guaranteed the full support of the Federal Republic of Finland”.
The Baltic states of Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia also welcomed early NATO membership. “Finland’s membership would significantly strengthen both the alliance and the security of the Baltic states,” Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte wrote on Twitter. “I am happy about this great historic day!
“History is made by our northern neighbours,” Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas tweeted. Finland can count on the “full support” of Estonia. “We support the rapid accession process. The necessary measures will be taken quickly on our side.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Finland would be “warmly welcomed” into NATO. “The membership process would be smooth and quick,” he promised.
Finland’s official candidacy is still pending
Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and Prime Minister Sanna Marin had previously announced their decision to join NATO “immediately”. In a joint statement on Thursday, the two endorsed joining the Western military alliance. This would strengthen the security of Finland and the whole alliance at the same time, said the two most important politicians of the Nordic country.
The EU’s northernmost country is expected to decide on a formal membership application in the coming days, likely on Sunday. This step would be a direct consequence of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the resulting changed security situation in Europe. For Finland, long unaligned and sharing a border with Russia more than 1,300 kilometers long, such a decision would be historic.
Before the country can join NATO, all 30 current members must agree. NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg has recently signaled on several occasions that there is broad support for this idea within the alliance.
The Niinistö and Marin governments ultimately decide the NATO issue together, but they involve parliament in the decision-making process. On the way to a decision, the government had already submitted a security analysis to the Riksdag in Helsinki in April, in which the advantages and risks of a possible NATO membership were highlighted. However, the analysis did not include a position for or against such membership.
What is Sweden doing?
Finland and neighboring Sweden are already close NATO partners, but are not yet officially members. However, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sparked an intense debate within NATO in both countries. In the population, there was a clear change of opinion towards a possible adhesion to the alliance. In a recent poll by Finnish broadcaster Yle, 76% of respondents were in favor of Finland joining NATO.
During a visit by Marin and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson to the closed-door federal cabinet meeting in Meseberg near Berlin, Chancellor Olaf Scholz recently pledged German support for countries joining NATO.
The Finnish announcement now increases the pressure on Sweden to make a timely decision on NATO membership. A separate analysis of security policy was expected there on Friday, and Andersson’s ruling Social Democrats want to make a decision on their own stance on the issue on Sunday. Next Tuesday and Wednesday, Niinistö is finally with Swedish King Carl XVI. Gustaf visiting Stockholm.