Photo: The Canadian Press
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Monday that Finland will become the 31st member of the world’s largest military alliance on Tuesday, prompting Russia to warn that it will bolster defenses near its common border if NATO deploys forces in the new member.
“This is a historic week… Finland will be a full member of the alliance from tomorrow,” Stoltenberg told reporters on the eve of a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels. He expressed hope that Sweden would join NATO in the coming months.
On Tuesday afternoon, the former Norwegian prime minister said: “We will raise the Finnish flag for the first time here at NATO headquarters. It will be a good day for the security of Finland, for the security of the North and for NATO as a whole.”
Stoltenberg said Turkey, the latest country to ratify Finland’s membership, will hand over its official texts to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday. Stoltenberg said he would next invite Finland to do the same.
The ceremony will be attended by Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, Defense Minister Ante Kakkonen and Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto.
“This is a historic moment for us. The most important goal of the meeting for Finland is to underscore NATO’s support for Ukraine while Russia continues its illegal aggression,” Haavisto said in a statement.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko said that Moscow will respond to Finland’s NATO membership by strengthening its defenses if necessary.
“We will strengthen our military capabilities in the west and northwest,” Grushko said in remarks carried by the state RIA Novosti news agency. In the event that forces from other NATO members are deployed to Finland, we will take additional measures to ensure Russia’s military security. »
The announcement of Finland’s entry comes after Finnish voters gave conservative parties a boost in elections last weekend, denying left-wing Prime Minister Sanna Marin another term. Marin pleaded for his country to join NATO.
Fearful of being targeted after Russia invaded Ukraine a year ago, northern neighbors Finland and Sweden abandoned their traditional positions of military non-alignment to seek protection under NATO’s security umbrella.
The Thirty Allies signed the Protocols of Accession of Finland and Sweden. Türkiye and Hungary postponed the operation for several months, but then turned away from Finland. Türkiye has asked for guarantees and assurances from both sides, especially with regard to combating extremism. Hungary’s demands were never explicit.
NATO must unanimously agree to accept new members. NATO officials are also keen to bring Sweden into the fold ahead of US President Joe Biden’s meeting with his NATO counterparts in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, on July 11-12.
“Sweden is not alone,” Stoltenberg said. Sweden is as close as possible to full membership.