The President of Finland, Sauli Niinistö, and the Finnish Government have formally approved this Sunday their country's request to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which is expected to be ratified by the Eduskunta (Parliament) next week.
Moscow's invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022 has shifted political and public opinion in Finland and neighboring Sweden in favor of NATO membership as a deterrent against Russian aggression.
NATO said Sunday in Berlin that it awaits "with open arms" Sweden and Finland if those countries confirm in the coming days that they want to become new members of the alliance and hoped to convince Turkey to endorse the expansion.
"They meet the standards and participate in joint missions", confirmed the German foreign minister and host of an informal meeting of foreign ministers of the Atlantic Alliance, Annalena Baerbock, who said that NATO partners are waiting for Sweden and Finland " with open arms".
Germany, said the minister, will even initiate an accelerated procedure to approve the candidacy within the federal government so that parliamentary ratification can be quickly carried out, so that Sweden and Finland are not in a "grey area" before of its full entry into NATO.
Both the Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, and the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, expressed their confidence in reaching an "agreed consensus" with Turkey regarding the expansion towards the Nordic countries in the face of the threat posed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in light of which the future candidacy of Sweden and Finland was discussed in Berlin.
"I heard strong support from all sides," said Blinken, summarizing his impressions of the Turkish demands before the press, although he refused to go into detail about what satisfactions Ankara could receive to grant its approval to the Entry of Sweden and Finland into NATO.
Regarding internal dissent, Stoltenberg recalled that "when there is, we sit down to talk about it and I am confident that we can reach an agreed consensus."
Ankara's resistance to accepting the candidacy of the Nordic countries - which are expected to be formalized in the coming days - was manifested this Friday, when the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said that his country does not view them favorably due to the alleged backing "terrorists" from those Nordic nations.
The Turkish leader criticized Sweden and Finland's alleged support for Kurdish activists and others whom Turkey considers "terrorists".
Erdogan insisted that Ankara does not want to repeat the "mistake" of Greece's entry into NATO, which Turkey believes served Athens to use the Alliance against Turkish interests.
At the same time that the foreign ministers were meeting in Berlin, the president of Finland, Sauli Niinistö, and the Finnish government officially confirmed their intention to apply for NATO membership despite threats from Russia, a decision that puts an end to almost eight decades of non-alignment.
"Today is a historic day, a new era opens. A protected Finland is born as part of a stable Nordic region, strong and aware of its responsibilities," Niinistö said at a press conference in Helsinki with the Prime Minister, the Social Democrat Sana Marin.
As for Sweden, its Parliament plans to host a special debate on Monday on the occasion of the new report on security, in which the Prime Minister, Magdalena Andersson, will participate, and which could be followed by an extraordinary meeting of the Government and the announcement of the sending of a formal application to join NATO, one day before Finnish President Sauli Niinistö arrives in Sweden on an official visit.
This weekend's meeting in Berlin was informal - without the approval of formal decisions, a novelty in the Atlantic Alliance - and focused both on the response to be given to Sweden and Finland when they formalize their accession requests and on censoring the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a reason that explains the historical approach of the Nordic countries to the military alliance.
Baerbock estimated when summarizing the spirit of the foreign ministers of the 30 member states of NATO: "In a brutal way we are seeing how we need the union. Peace does not come from heaven."
The German host of the meeting reiterated what NATO and its members have affirmed since the war in Ukraine began: the war is not going as Moscow had planned, the offensive in the east of the country is "stalled" and the Kremlin "has not complied its objectives".
On the US side, Blinken insisted on Washington's full support for NATO expansion with Sweden and Finland and reiterated support "for as long as necessary" for kyiv in its war against Russia.
In Berlin, the allies also addressed the elaboration of the new "strategic concept" of the Atlantic Alliance, which will be the main issue that will occupy the NATO leaders at their summit next June in Madrid.
In this regard, Blinken only said that this strategic document is being drafted, without offering details of its content, but he did indicate to the press that Russia's new attitude will have an evident weight in the formulation of NATO's priorities in the areas of defense and deterrence, cyber attacks, hybrid attacks and links between climate change and security.
President Niinisto telephoned Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday to inform him of the plan to seek NATO membership. The move would be a "mistake because there are no threats to Finland's security," Putin told his Finnish counterpart, according to a Kremlin statement, adding that it could damage relations between the countries.
Putin's reaction to the Finnish plan was "softer than ever," Niinisto told reporters on Sunday. "They may want to avoid" this becoming a topic of discussion in Russia, he said.
Russia has hinted at the possibility of more troops on the border, or bringing nuclear weapons to its Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad in response.
"This is a card that the Russians have been playing from 2014 onwards," said Anna Wieslander, director for northern Europe at the Atlantic Council. "We believe that they already have such weapons in Kaliningrad since 2018 and they have taken precautions because of that."