Finland’s leaders announced Thursday that they would seek NATO membership for the Nordic nation.
“Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay,” Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin said in a statement that comes after weeks of discussions about whether the traditionally nonaligned nation should join the defense alliance and a day after Helsinki signed a mutual security agreement with London.
A green light from Finland’s leaders is the first step toward a formal application, with the proposal also requiring approval from the country’s Parliament.
The Finnish leaders said membership — which would double NATO’s land border with Russia — would bolster Finland’s security and the defense alliance.
“NATO membership would strengthen Finland’s security. As a member of NATO, Finland would strengthen the entire defense alliance,” they said.
“We hope that the national steps still needed to make this decision will be taken rapidly within the next few days.”
Before the announcement, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said he doubted Russian President Vladimir Putin was willing to let the conflict spill over into countries such as Poland because he wouldn’t want to take on NATO.