Finland seeks to join NATO ‘without delay’, Russia threatens retaliation

HELSINKI/KHARKIV, Ukraine (Reuters) – Finland said on Thursday it will file an application to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) “without delay”, and Sweden must do the same, with the invasion of North Atlantic. Russia to Ukraine apparently motivating the very expansion of the Western military alliance that Russian President Vladimir Putin has tried to avoid.

The decision by the two Nordic countries to abandon the neutrality they maintained during the Cold War would be one of the biggest changes to Europe’s security in decades. Moscow considered Finland’s announcement a direct threat to Russia and threatened retaliation, including unspecified “military-technical” measures.

The announcement came even as Russia’s war in Ukraine suffered yet another major setback, with Ukrainian forces withdrawing Russian troops from the region around the country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, Ukraine’s fastest advance since it forced Russia to move away from the capital and northeast region more than a month ago.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Finns would be “warmly welcomed” and promised a “smooth and speedy” access process. French President Emmanuel Macron said he fully supports Finland’s decision to join the alliance.

Finland’s 1,300 km border will more than double the length of the border between the US-led alliance and Russia, putting NATO troops within a few hours’ drive of the northern outskirts of St.

“Finland needs to apply to join NATO without delay,” Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said in a joint statement, hoping the necessary steps to take the decision would be taken. taken “quickly over the next few days”.

Asked whether Finland’s entry would pose a direct threat to Russia, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “Definitely. NATO expansion does not make our continent more stable and secure.”

“This cannot but arouse our regret and is a reason for corresponding and symmetrical responses from our side,” added Peskov.

“LOOK IN THE MIRROR”

Asked on Wednesday whether Finland would provoke Russia by joining NATO, Niinisto said: “My answer would be that you caused this. Look in the mirror”.

Five diplomats and officials told Reuters that NATO allies expect the two countries to become members quickly, paving the way for more troop presence in the Nordic region to defend them during the one-year period of ratification.

NATO describes itself as a defensive alliance, built around a treaty that declares that an attack on one member is an attack on all, guaranteeing US allies protection from Washington’s superpower might, including its nuclear arsenal.

Moscow considers this a threat to its security. But Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine has changed Nordic public opinion, with political parties that long advocated neutrality now aligning with the view that Russia is a threat.

Finland especially has centuries of tense history under Russia’s shadow. Ruled by the Russian Empire between 1808 and 1917, it fought against Soviet invasions on the eve of World War II and accepted some Soviet influence as the price for avoiding taking sides during the Cold War. Since Finland and Sweden joined the European Union in 1995, they have aligned themselves more firmly with the West.

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