NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Finland would become the 31st member of the world’s largest military alliance on Tuesday, prompting a warning from Russia that it would bolster defenses near its common border if NATO deployed any forces inside the country.
“This is a historic week,” Stoltenberg told reporters on the eve of a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels. “As of tomorrow, Finland will be a full member of the coalition.” He hoped Sweden could join in the coming months.
On Tuesday afternoon, Stoltenberg, a former Norwegian prime minister, said, “We will fly the Finnish flag for the first time here at NATO headquarters. It will be a good day for the security of Finland, for the security of the Nordic countries and for NATO as a whole.”
Stoltenberg said Turkey, the last country to ratify Finland’s membership, will deliver its official texts to the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, on Tuesday. Stoltenberg said he would next invite Finland to do the same.
The ceremony will be attended by Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Defense Minister Ante Kakkonen, as well as Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto.
“It is a historic moment for us. For Finland, the most important objective of the meeting will be to underscore NATO’s support for Ukraine as Russia continues its illegal aggression,” Haavisto said in a statement. “We seek to strengthen stability and security throughout the Euro-Atlantic region.”
Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Alexander Grushko, said that Moscow would respond to Finland joining the coalition by strengthening its defenses if necessary.
“We will strengthen our military capabilities in the west and northwest,” Grushko said in remarks reported by the RIA Novosti news agency. “In the event that forces from other NATO members are deployed on the territory of Finland, we will take additional steps to ensure Russia’s military security.”
The announcement of Finland’s entry came hours after Finnish voters gave conservative parties a boost in weekend elections, denying the left-wing prime minister, Sanna Marin, another term. Marin advocated for her country to join NATO.
Fearing they might be targeted after Russia invaded Ukraine a year ago, northern neighbors Finland and Sweden have abandoned their traditional positions of military non-alignment to seek protection under NATO’s security umbrella.
All thirty allies signed the protocols of accession of Finland and Sweden. Türkiye and Hungary delayed the process for several months, but backed away from Finland. Turkey has sought guarantees and assurances from the two countries, particularly in terms of countering extremism. Hungary’s demands were never explicit.
NATO must unanimously approve the admission of new members. Alliance officials are also keen to bring Sweden into the fold ahead of a meeting between the US President, Joe Biden, and his NATO counterparts in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, on July 11-12.
“Sweden is not alone. Sweden is as close as it can come as a full member,” Stoltenberg said.
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