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Finland’s leadership has said the country “must apply for Nato membership” in a historical shift in the country’s defence and foreign policy position.
In a joint statement issued on Thursday, Prime Minister Sanna Marin and President Sauli Niinisto urged politicians to support Finland’s push to become a member of the trans-Atlantic military alliance.
They expressed their wish for a decision to be taken “rapidly within the next few days” to pave the way for the application process.
The full statement from Prime Minister Sanna Marin and President Sauli Niinisto reads:
“During this spring, an important discussion on Finland’s possible Nato membership has taken place.
“Time has been needed to let parliament and the whole society establish their stands on the matter.
“Time has been needed for close international contacts with Nato and its member countries, as well as with Sweden. We have wanted to give the discussion the space it required.
“Now that the moment of decision-making is near, we state our equal views, also for information to the parliamentary groups and parties.
“Nato membership would strengthen Finland’s security.
“As a member of Nato, Finland would strengthen the entire defence alliance. Finland must apply for Nato membership without delay.
“We hope that the national steps still needed to make this decision will be taken rapidly within the next few days.”
Should the country of 5.5 million join the alliance it would represent the most significant change in its defence and security policy since the Second World War.
Finland shares a 1,335-kilometre border with Russia and has in the past shied away from joining Nato in favour of neutrality. Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February caused the mood in Helsinki to change and immediately conversations began on a potential Nato membership bid.
Sweden is also considering joining Nato.
The Kremlin has warned of “military and political repercussions” if Sweden and Finland decide to join the 30-member group.
Should they apply, there will be an interim period lasting from when an application has been made until all members’ parliaments have ratified it.
The joint statement from Finland's leadership was released after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited Helsinki this week to sign a deal that would see the UK go to Finland’s aid, including with military support, in the event of an attack on the country.
He later travelled to Sweden where he signed a similar defence pact.