Finland and Sweden are planning to join NATO, the governments said on Sunday, in a momentous move for the Nordic countries, who are known for their military neutrality policy.
“Today, we, the president and the government’s foreign policy committee, have jointly agreed that Finland… will seek for NATO membership,” Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto announced during a news conference with Prime Minister Sanna Marin.
After Russia’s extraordinary invasion of Ukraine in February, he noted, becoming a member of the military alliance will “maximise” Finland’s security.
Marin called the choice to apply “critical” and based on a “strong mandate.”
“In the following days, we expect the parliament will approve the decision to seek for NATO membership,” she continued.
Finland has been in frequent touch with NATO and its members, according to Marin. Marin and Niinisto declared last week that the country should apply to join NATO “immediately.”
Shortly after Finland’s statement, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson announced her support for a NATO application. Given Russia’s continuous aggression in Ukraine, her Swedish Social Democratic Party has dropped its previous objection to participation in the alliance.
“Today, the Swedish Social Democratic Party made a historic step forward by agreeing to apply for NATO membership. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has worsened Sweden’s and Europe’s security position, according to Ann Linde, Sweden’s foreign affairs minister.
Linde told CNBC on Sunday that Russia had not only invaded its neighbour Ukraine, but had also committed war crimes by hitting civilian facilities, including schools, hospitals, and theatres.
“As a result of this, we have decided that we will not be secure unless we ask for NATO membership,” she continued.
Despite overwhelming proof to the contrary, Russia has denied targeting civilian facilities.
The formal application to join NATO is expected from both countries in the coming days.