Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Finland joins NATO

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Helsinki/Brussels – Finland formally joined NATO on Tuesday, its flag unfurling outside the military bloc’s Brussels headquarters, in a historic policy shift brought on by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, drawing a threat from Moscow of “counter-measures”.

Finland’s accession, ending seven decades of military non-alignment, roughly doubles the length of the border that the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation shares with Russia and bolsters its eastern flank as the war in Ukraine grinds on with no resolution in sight.

Finland’s flag – a blue cross on a white background – was hoisted alongside those of the alliance’s 30 other members as a military band played in bright spring sunshine.

“For almost 75 years, this great alliance has shielded our nations and continues to do so today,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg declared at the ceremony. “But war has returned to Europe and Finland has decided to join NATO and be part of the world’s most successful alliance.”

Stoltenberg earlier noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin had cited opposition to NATO’s eastward enlargement as one justification for invading Ukraine.

“He is getting exactly the opposite. … Finland today, and soon also Sweden will become a full fledged member of the alliance,” Stoltenberg said.

Finnish President Saul Niinisto said Finland’s most significant contribution to NATO’s common deterrence and defence would be to defend its own territory. There is still significant work to be done to coordinate this with NATO, he said.

“It is a great day for Finland and I want to say that it is an important day for NATO,” Niinisto said at a joint news conference with Stoltenberg.

The Kremlin said Russia would be forced to take “counter-measures”. Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said Finland’s move raised the risk of the conflict in Ukraine escalating further. (Reuters)

 

 

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