Finnish President Sauli Niinisto will reportedly express his support for joining the Western military alliance on 12 May.
Finland will announce its intention to join NATO on May 12, in an effort to speed up the application process for the military bloc, the Finnish newspaper Iltalehti reported on Monday, citing several sources.
According to the newspaper, President Sauli Niinisto will announce his support for joining the alliance tomorrow. Later that day, his announcement will be followed “in the spirit of parliamentarism” by the parliamentary groups also giving their approval.
The date of 12 May was chosen because the various parliamentary committees were already planning to discuss foreign and security issues on that day. Prime Minister Sanna Marin has also approved the date of the decision.
“The position is that Finland is applying for membership,” Iltalehti said.
The text of the decision, which has apparently already been drafted, will then be approved by the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, submitted to Parliament and forwarded 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, which are both EU members, have so far chosen to remain outside NATO and maintain neutral status.
Recent surveys in both countries, however, reveal that the Russian military offensive in Ukraine has changed public opinion, with more respondents now supporting the idea of NATO membership than in recent years. The changes led Stockholm and Helsinki to reconsider their alliance freedom policy.
Previous media reports indicate that Sweden and Finland planned to simultaneously submit membership applications to NATO in mid-May. The Swedish Parliament is now reviewing its security policy.
In early April, the head of the alliance, Jens Stoltenberg, said that NATO “will warmly welcome” Finland and Sweden if they apply to become members, and is prepared to make a decision on membership “fairly quickly”.
Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto, who had previously expressed concern about potential reprisals from Russia, recently said that NATO countries had “very actively” offered Helsinki “both diplomatic and security assistance” during the application process.
Russia believes that NATO’s further expansion is a direct threat to its own national security and “to the entire security architecture”. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned in April that Moscow would “take further action” to make its defense on the West Bank “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, which were first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s final recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-mediated Minsk Protocol was designed to give the breakaway regions a 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. Kyiv insists that the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied allegations that it planned to retake the two republics by force.