“A new era is beginning,” Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said alongside Prime Minister Sanna Marin on Sunday, announcing a step that the two leaders called historic.
After Finland’s announcement, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson’s governing Social Democrats also announced its support for Swedish membership of NATO following a specially-convened meeting on Sunday. The move marks a major shift in their position on the defence alliance.
However, Sweden’s Social Democrats have indicated they want neither nuclear weapons nor permanent NATO bases on their territory.
The party’s policy switch comes in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has triggered a rethink on NATO membership in both countries.
“We are faced with a fundamentally changed security environment in Europe,” Andersson said.
“The essential question for us is how best to protect Sweden and the Kremlin has shown that it is prepared to use force to achieve its political goals.”
Finland, meanwhile, is keen to avoid another conflict with Russia, with which it shares a border of around 1300 kilometres.
“We have had wars with Russia, and we don’t want that kind of future for ourselves, for our children, and this is why we’re making these decisions today and in the upcoming weeks, so there will never again be a war,” the Finnish premier said.
“When we look at Russia, we see a very different kind of Russia today than we saw just a few months ago. Everything changed when Russia attacked Ukraine,” Marin said.
“I personally think that we cannot trust any more that there will be a peaceful future.”
In a telephone call with Niinistö on Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin described Finland’s planned accession to NATO as a mistake.
According to the Kremlin, Russia does not pose a threat to its Nordic neighbour and Finland’s departure from its long-standing neutrality would lead to a deterioration in relations. However, Niinistö also stressed that no direct threats were made.
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