To: 05/14/2022 18:23
Finland wants to join NATO – an official government decision is expected on Sunday. Russian President Putin warned his neighboring country of this “error” during a phone call.
Finland is making great strides towards eventual NATO membership. The state leadership would like to be accepted “immediately” into the defense alliance and the ruling party is also almost unanimous in favor of membership. But warning signals are coming from neighboring Russia.
On Thursday, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö stressed in a statement he issued with Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin: “NATO membership would strengthen Finland’s security.” In doing so, he confirmed his country’s new course: to emerge from decades of military neutrality and enter into the military alliance.
Niinistö wants to avoid tensions on the phone
That Russia does not like such a decision – to put it mildly – is hardly surprising. After all, the two neighbors are connected by a border more than 1,300 kilometers long, and even before the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin had repeatedly criticized the eastward expansion. of NATO as a growing threat.
That’s why Finnish President Niinistö picked up the phone today – to ‘avoid tension’, according to his office. During the conversation, Niinistö made it clear that Finland wanted to work with its Russian neighbor on a practical level. But the president has also made it clear that each country must ensure its own maximum security independently of the others – as Niinistö Putin explained when the two heads of state first met a decade ago. “This is still the case. By joining NATO, Finland strengthens its own security and takes responsibility,” the Finnish president’s office said.
Putin: Finland’s security not at risk
But Putin sees possible NATO membership as a mistake that would damage bilateral relations. Finland’s abandonment of traditional neutrality will lead to a deterioration of good neighborly relations. And Putin said Finland’s security was in no way threatened.
Just two days ago, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov sounded a bit more threatening. Russia will “certainly” view NATO membership as a threat to its neighboring country. And the Russian Foreign Ministry said Moscow felt compelled to respond “militarily and by other means”.
Russia shuts down electricity supply
Finland has already had to accept a first cup. Finnish grid operator Fingrid has announced that Russia has stopped its electricity exports. Russian-controlled energy company RAO Nordic Oy announced the step shortly before, but justified it on allegedly missing payments from Finland. The company said that no money had yet been received for the quantities of electricity sold since May 6. It therefore cannot pay the bills for electricity imports from Russia.
Finland was calm on deliveries that had been suspended. Only ten percent of the electricity required in Finland can be attributed to Russian imports. And according to the Finnish government, these can be compensated by deliveries from Sweden.
Official government decision on NATO expected on Sunday
With the outbreak of war against Ukraine, an overhaul had taken hold in Finland. In the polls, a clear majority of the population is now in favor of joining NATO. A turnaround has also taken place in Sweden. Finland and Sweden aim to submit an application for admission at the same time as possible. Prime Minister Marin expressed hope that this could happen as early as next week.
In Finland, the government’s formal decision to join NATO should be taken as early as Sunday, after which parliament will have to approve it. The ruling Social Democrats are in the majority. And they now supported joining the defense alliance with a clear majority. According to the party, 53 of 60 members of its own leadership voted to join. Only five deputies voted against, two abstained. However, the party’s official vote is not expected until Sunday.
In the evening, NATO foreign ministers meet in Berlin to discuss the Russian war against Ukraine. The membership perspective of Finland and Sweden should also be discussed at the meeting.
NATO itself had already assured Finland and Sweden that admission could be very fast once applications from both countries were received. General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg had repeatedly assured that the doors of the alliance were wide open to the two potential new members. And earlier this week, a NATO spokesman announced that there could be only two weeks between the application and the signing of the accession protocols.