Finland’s president and government have announced the Nordic country intends to apply for membership of NATO, paving the way for the 30-member Western military alliance to expand amid Russia’s war in Ukraine.
President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin made the announcement at a joint news conference at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki on Sunday.
Finland, shares a long border with Russia. Mr Niinisto said: “This is a historic day. A new era begins.”
The Finnish Parliament is expected to endorse the decision in coming days, but it is considered a formality.
A formal membership application will then be submitted to NATO headquarters in Brussels, most likely at some point next week.
Separately, a senior NATO official has said Russia’s military advance in Ukraine appears to be faltering and he expressed hope that Kyiv can win the war.
Top NATO diplomats are meeting on Sunday in Berlin to discuss providing further support to Ukraine and the moves by Finland, Sweden and others to join the western alliance in the face of threats from Russia.
NATO deputy secretary-general Mircea Geoana told reporters: “The brutal invasion (by) Russia is losing momentum.
“We know that with the bravery of the Ukrainian people and army, and with our help, Ukraine can win this war.”
Mr Geoana, who was chairing the meeting while NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg recovers from Covid, said Ukraine’s supporters are “united, we are strong, will continue to help Ukraine in winning this war”.