Finland Announces NATO Membership Application

The government of Finland announced on Sunday that it would apply for membership of NATO, with the announcement made during a joint press conference by Finnish President President Sauli Niinistö and Prime Minister Sanna Marin. While Finland has been a NATO Partner for Peace since 1994, previous Finnish policy had been to retain “freedom of maneuver” by maintaining a close partnership but not membership of NATO.

According to Marin, the application needs to be ratified by parliament before a formal application to join NATO can be made, with the Prime Minister expressing hope that lawmakers would confirm the decision “during the coming days”. She added that there was a “strong mandate” for Finnish membership, citing the President’s support for NATO membership. Niinistö had endorsed the Finnish move towards NATO membership in comments made last Thursday.

During the press conference, Niinistö said that he had made a phone call to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday to inform him of the decision, saying that:

“I, or Finland, are not known to sneak around and quietly disappear behind a corner. It is better to say it straight what already has been said, also to the concerned party and that is what I wanted to do.”

A readout of the phone call released by Niinistö’s office said that “the Russian demands in late 2021 aiming at preventing countries from joining NATO and Russia’s massive invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 have altered the security environment of Finland”. The President said Putin was “calm and cool” during the call during an interview with CNN, adding that Putin called Finnish membership of NATO a “mistake”, claiming that Russia did not present a threat to Finland. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov added “We are not convinced that Finland and Sweden joining NATO will somehow strengthen or improve the security on our continent.”

Alongside the announcement, the Finnish government released a draft report on a possible accession to NATO. The report estimates that the annual additional direct costs of NATO membership would be approximately 1 to 1.5 percent of Finland’s defense budget for this year, with participation in NATO’s peacetime collective defence missions, multinational capability projects, command and control systems and readiness requirements likely to incur additional costs. The report considers the benefits to be well worth the costs, stating that NATO membership would make the deterrent effect of the Finnish military “considerably” stronger.