The government of Finland announced Sunday that it is planning to apply for NATO membership in a move that is likely to irk Moscow amid the months-long conflict in Ukraine.
Ahead of the planned announcement, Russian officials lodged threats against the Scandinavian country, which shares a lengthy border with Russia and has long held a position of neutrality. During the Cold War, both Finland and neighboring Sweden kept out of NATO, but the governments of both countries have said they have reconsidered their stance on the military alliance amid the Russia–Ukraine war.
“We hope that the Parliament will confirm the decision to apply for NATO membership during the coming days,” Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said during a news conference in Helsinki on Sunday. “It will be based on a strong mandate, with the President of the Republic. We have been in close contact with governments of NATO member states and NATO itself.”
While Finland is a close partner with NATO, Sunday’s announcement “is a historic decision that we will join NATO and hopefully we are making the decisions together,” Marin added.
Finland, however, appears to have some roadblocks ahead in joining the 28-member alliance. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country could oppose the bids of Finland and Sweden, saying that both countries are “guesthouses for terrorist organizations” in an apparent reference to the Marxist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Front, organizations that have been involved in terrorist campaigns against Turkey since the 1980s.
“There absolutely needs to be security guarantees here. They need to stop supporting terrorist organizations,” Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, told Turkish reporters in Berlin. He added that Swedish and Finnish bans on exporting some of their defense sector goods to Turkey must end.
“Our stance is perfectly open and clear. This is not a threat, this is not a negotiation where we’re trying to leverage our interests,” he said. “This is not populism either. This is clearly about two potential member states’ support for terrorism, and our solid observations about it, this is what we shared.”
On Thurday, meanwhile, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that it would “definitely” be a threat to Russia’s sovereignty if Finland joined NATO. “As we have said many times before, NATO expansion does not make the world more stable and secure,” Peskov said.
“Finland joined the unfriendly steps taken by the European Union toward our country. This cannot fail to arouse our regret, and is a reason for corresponding symmetrical responses on our side,” Peskov said, reported the Reuters news agency.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has long said he believes NATO is attempting to expand its borders so as to put more pressure on Russia. Ahead of the Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, he made reference to those longstanding beliefs and said Ukraine can never join the military alliance.
After Marin’s announcement Sunday, Russian officials have not issued any public comments.
Vladimir Chizhov, the Russian ambassador to the European Union, told Sky News Thursday that should Finland join NATO, “this will necessitate certain military technical measures like improving or raising the degree of defense preparations along the Finish border.” He didn’t elaborate.
Reuters contributed to this report.