Finnish leaders on Thursday announced their intention to seek NATO membership “without delay,” defying Russia’s warning that they do not want another alliance member at their borders.
"NATO membership would strengthen Finland’s security," wrote Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin, as Russia’s war on Ukraine nears its fourth month. “As a member of NATO, Finland would strengthen the entire defence alliance. Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay.”
The statement added: "We hope that the national steps still needed to make this decision will be taken rapidly within the next few days.”
Finland shares a 1,300-kilometer (810-mile) border with Russia, and early in World War II it fiercely defended itself from a Soviet invasion.
The country maintained strict military neutrality during the Cold War but in 1995 struck a partnership agreement with NATO.
After Russia launched a war against neighboring Ukraine on Feb. 24, support for NATO membership in Finland surged significantly.
Russia has repeatedly stated that Finland and its neighbor Sweden should not join NATO. Moscow has sought to justify its war on Ukraine by citing the possibility of the country joining NATO, even though the country’s membership process had just recently begun.