Finland, Russia’s Neighbor, Announces It Wants to Join NATO

Finland’s president and government announced that the Nordic country intends to apply for NATO membership, paving the way for the 30-member western military alliance to expand amid Russia’s war in Ukraine.

BERLIN – A senior NATO official said on Sunday that Russia’s military advance in Ukraine appeared to be failing and expressed hope that Kiev could win the war as neighboring Finland announced it wanted to join the Western military alliance.

Top NATO diplomats are meeting Sunday in Berlin to discuss providing more support to Ukraine and the moves by Finland, Sweden and others to join NATO in the face of Russian threats.

“The brutal invasion (by) Russia is running out of steam,” NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoana told reporters. “We know that with the bravery of the Ukrainian people and army and with our help, Ukraine can win this war.”

Finland’s president and government announced Sunday that the formerly neutral Nordic country that shares a long border with Russia intends to join NATO, paving the way for the expansion of the 30-member Western military alliance.

President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin made the announcement at a joint press conference at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki.

“This is a historic day. A new era begins,” said Niinisto.

The Finnish Parliament is expected to approve the decision in the coming days, but it is considered a formality.

A formal application for membership will then be submitted to NATO headquarters in Brussels, likely sometime in the next week.

Geoana, who was chairing the meeting as NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg recovers from a COVID-19 infection, said Ukraine’s supporters are “united, we are strong, we will continue to help Ukraine win this war.” ”.

A key issue being discussed in Berlin is the expansion of NATO beyond its current 30 member states.

Sweden has also already taken steps to join the alliance, while Georgia’s candidacy is again being discussed, despite Moscow’s dire warnings about the consequences if its neighbor becomes part of NATO.

“Finland and Sweden are already NATO’s closest partners,” Geoana said, adding that she hopes the allies will view her applications in a positive light.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said her country and others made it clear at a dinner on Saturday that they would be willing to speed up the national ratification process for Finland and Sweden.

“If these two countries are deciding to come together, they can come together very quickly,” she said.

Denmark’s foreign minister has rejected suggestions that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s objections could prevent the alliance from allowing new members in.

“Each European country has the fundamental right to choose its own security arrangement,” Jeppe Kofod told reporters.

“We now see a world where the number one enemy of democracy is Putin and the thinking he represents,” he said, adding that NATO would also stand with other countries, such as Georgia, which he said were being “instrumentalized” by Russia. .

On the sidelines of the meeting, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met on Sunday with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba to discuss the impact of the war and how to get Ukraine’s grain to international markets.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said Blinken “underscored the United States’ enduring commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s unprovoked war.”

Britain’s top diplomat said NATO members would also discuss security issues outside Europe during their meeting on Sunday – a reference to growing unease among democratic nations over China’s rise.

“In addition to protecting Euro-Atlantic security, we also need to look after the security of the Indo-Pacific,” said Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.

The meeting follows a meeting of foreign ministers from the Group of Seven major economies on Germany’s Baltic Sea coast this week. Officials there expressed strong support for Ukraine and warned that Russia’s blockade of grain exports from Ukrainian ports risks fueling a global food crisis.

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Tanner reported from Helsinki. AP diplomatic writer Matthew Lee contributed from Berlin.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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