BERLIN (AP) — Finland’s president and government announced Sunday that the Nordic country intends to apply for NATO membership, paving the way for the expansion of the 30-member Western military alliance amid Russia’s war in Ukraine.
President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin made the announcement during a joint press conference at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki.
Finland’s parliament is expected to approve the decision in the coming days, but this is considered a formality.
A formal membership application will then be submitted to NATO headquarters in Brussels, most likely sometime next week.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s previous story follows below.
BERLIN (AP) – A senior NATO official says Russia military advance in Ukraine seems to be weakening and he expressed the hope that kyiv can win the war.
Senior NATO diplomats meet in Berlin on Sunday to discuss further support for Ukraine and steps taken by Finland, Sweden and others to join the Western alliance in the face of threats from Russia.
“The brutal invasion (by) Russia is losing momentum,” NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoana told reporters. “We know that with the bravery of the Ukrainian people and army, and with our help, Ukraine can win this war.”
Geoana, who was chairing the meeting while NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was recovering from COVID-19 infection, said Ukraine supporters were “united, we are strong, we will continue to help Ukraine win this war”.
NATO’s expansion beyond its current 30 member states is one of the main issues being discussed in Berlin.
“Finland and Sweden are already NATO’s closest partners,” Geoana said, adding that he expected the allies to view their candidacies positively.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said her country and others made it clear over dinner on Saturday evening that they would be willing to speed up the national ratification process for Finland and Sweden.
“If these two countries decide to join, they can join very quickly,” she said.
“Each European country has the fundamental right to choose its own security apparatus,” Jeppe Kofod told reporters.
“We now see a world where the number one enemy of democracy is Putin and the thought he represents,” he said, adding that NATO would also stand with other countries, such as the Georgia, who he said were “instrumentalised” by Russia. .
Britain’s top diplomat said NATO members would also discuss security issues beyond Europe when they meet on Sunday – a reference to growing unease among democratic nations over the rise of China.
“In addition to protecting Euro-Atlantic security, we must also look after Indo-Pacific security,” Foreign Minister Liz Truss said.
The meeting follows a meeting of foreign ministers from the major Group of Seven economies on Germany’s Baltic Sea coast this week. Officials there expressed their strong support for Ukraine and warned that the Russian blockade of grain exports from Ukrainian ports risks fueling a global food crisis.
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