Russia’s neighbor set to announce NATO bid – media

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto will reportedly voice his support for accession into the Western military alliance on May 12

Finland will announce its intention to join NATO on May 12, in a bid to speed up the process of applying to the military bloc, Finnish newspaper Iltalehti reported on Monday, citing multiple sources.

According to the outlet, President Sauli Niinisto will announce his support for joining the alliance in the morning. Later that day, his announcement will be followed “in the spirit of parliamentarism” by the parliamentary groups giving their approval as well.

The date of May 12 was chosen because the various parliamentary committees were already planning to discuss foreign and security matters on that day. Prime Minister Sanna Marin has also approved the date for the decision.

The position is that Finland is applying for membership,” Iltalehti said.

The text of the decision, which apparently has already been prepared, will then be approved by the Ministerial Committee on Foreign and Security Policy, submitted to the parliament, and passed on to NATO for consideration.

These arrangements, the newspaper said, will speed up the process, avoid a parliamentary vote, and take the application to NATO “at high speed.”

Finland, which shares a border with Russia, and Sweden, both being EU members, have so far opted to remain outside of NATO and maintain neutral status.

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Recent polls in both countries, however, reveal that the Russian military offensive in Ukraine has shifted public opinion, with more respondents now supporting the idea of membership in NATO than in recent years. The changes prompted Stockholm and Helsinki to reconsider their non-alignment policies.

Earlier media reports suggest that Sweden and Finland were planning to simultaneously submit membership applications to NATO in mid-May. The Swedish parliament is now conducting an overview of its security policy.

In early April, the alliance’s head, Jens Stoltenberg, said NATO “will warmly welcome” Finland and Sweden if they apply to join, and is prepared to make a decision on membership “quite quickly.”

Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto, who previously expressed concerns over potential retaliation from Russia, said recently that the NATO countries have been “very actively” offering Helsinki “both diplomatic and security assistance” for the period of the application process.

Russia considers the further expansion of NATO to be a direct threat to its own national security, and “for the whole architecture of security.” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov warned in April that Moscow would “take additional measures” to make its defenses on the Western flank “more sophisticated” if Finland and Sweden join the bloc.

Russia attacked Ukraine in late February, following its failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered Minsk Protocol was designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.

The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.

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