Finland's NATO Application May Be Presented in Matter of Days, Country's FM Says
© AP Photo / Olivier MatthysFinland's Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto speaks during a media conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Monday, Jan. 24, 2022.
© AP Photo / Olivier Matthys
Joining NATO would be a significant shift in Finland's decadeslong neutrality policy, as it could provoke retaliation from Russia, which has been vocal in its opposition to another NATO expansion.
Finland will be ready to send its application to join the NATO military bloc shortly after completing a few more stages, the country's foreign minister Pekka Haavisto told CNBC on Tuesday.
The Nordic country has been pondering joining the alliance since Russia launched its special military operation in the Donbass republics on February 24. The operation, according to Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin, "changed the security policy situation in such a way that there is no going back to the way things were."
"When all our political parties are ready — and the latest, the Social Democrats on Saturday — then we are ready to move as [a] government forward and then this discussion, of course, on the NATO membership, will come to the Parliament, starting probably next Monday. But then we are, after that, ready to send an application," Haavisto said.
25 April 2022, 07:49 GMT
A five-party coalition government presently governs Finland. On Thursday, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto will reportedly provide his view on the country's NATO membership, beginning a series of actions that should lead to the formal application being submitted.
Finland is not alone in rethinking its security strategy. In the backdrop of the Ukraine events, Sweden has been reconsidering its position as well.
"I’ve been really much in favor of us [Finland and Sweden] joining together and now it looks like we have a parallel process, which could end in a similar way,” Haavisto said, adding that Sweden would likely submit its NATO application "around the same time" as his country.
"We have very good cooperation on military issues with Sweden, actually. We can have common surveillance of our airspace, on our maritime areas and so forth, and we are relying very much [on] each other, and of course, if it so happens in the future that one is in the ... defense alliance and the other one is not — that might hamper also our good cooperation,” he explained.
Meanwhile, Finland is expecting some political pledges from the alliance at a meeting scheduled for June in Madrid, Spain.
"Madrid is very important for political commitments and, on the highest level, welcoming new member states like Finland and Sweden,” the foreign minister said. "But even prior to that, the NATO Council certainly will discuss this matter and we are also expecting that single NATO member states will give their commitments and opinions immediately when Finland and Sweden will send an application."
To date, several NATO countries, including Germany and the US, have stated that they are willing to provide security guarantees to Stockholm and Helsinki in the interim between their applications and actual membership.
All 30 NATO members must approve both countries' applications before they can join the defense alliance, which will likely take several months.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has stated that their applications will be processed with a "minimum delay."
In turn, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said last month that if Sweden and Finland join NATO, Russia "will have more officially registered opponents."