Finland wants to join NATO to “strengthen its security”, President Niinistö told Putin

On Saturday, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö formally notified Vladimir Putin of the country’s request to join NATO in a phone call.

The militarily non-aligned Nordic country that shares a long border and a long history with Russia “will decide to apply for NATO membership in the coming days,” he said. a statement from the office of the president.

“President Niinistö told President Putin how fundamentally the Russian demands at the end of 2021 aimed at preventing countries from joining NATO and the massive Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 have altered Finland’s security environment,” he said. explained the statement.

“The conversation was direct and direct and it was conducted without aggravation. Avoiding tensions was considered important, ”said President Niinistö.

The Kremlin responded by saying that relations between the two neighbors could be “adversely affected” if Finland continues with plans to apply for NATO membership.

Niinistö has been the president of Finland since 2012 and is one of the few Western leaders who has held regular dialogue with Putin over the past decade.

He said he told the Russian leader that Finland was trying to bolster its security by joining NATO and that it still wanted to engage with Moscow in a practical and professional way.

The call was conducted on the initiative of Finland, the Niinistö office said.

The Kremlin press service said in a statement that Putin told Sauli Niinistö that the abandonment of Finland “of its traditional policy of military neutrality would be a mistake as there are no threats to Finland’s security”.

“Such a change in the country’s foreign policy could adversely affect Russian-Finnish relations, which had been built in the spirit of good neighborliness and partnership for many years, and were mutually beneficial,” the statement added.

Finland shares a 1,340-kilometer border with Russia, the longest of any member of the European Union. Brokering to join NATO is a historic development: Finland adopted neutrality after being defeated by the Soviet Union in World War II.

Russia’s electricity exports to Finland stalled overnight Friday after a Russian supplier announced the move earlier, an official from the Finnish electricity grid operator said.

The company responsible for selling Russian electricity to Finland, RAO Nordic, cited unpaid bills as the reason for the decision, although it is linked to the move to join NATO.

On Thursday Niinistö and Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin jointly approved Finland’s candidacy for NATO and recommended the country “to apply for NATO membership without delay”.

“NATO membership would strengthen Finland’s security. As a NATO member, Finland would strengthen the entire defense alliance,” they said.

Meanwhile, neighboring Sweden is also expected to decide on Sunday whether it will ask to join NATO at a meeting of the ruling Social Democratic Party led by Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson.

US President Joe Biden held a joint phone call on Friday with both Niinistö and Andersson. According to a statement from the White House, he “underlined his support for the NATO Open Door policy and the right of Finland and Sweden to decide their own future, foreign policy and security agreements”.