Finland said on Thursday, May 12, it would apply to join NATO “without delay”, with Sweden expected to follow, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine looks set to bring about the very expansion of the Western military alliance that Vladimir Putin aimed to prevent.
The decision by the two Nordic countries to abandon the neutrality they maintained throughout the Cold War would be one of the biggest shifts in European security in decades. Moscow called Finland’s announcement a direct threat to Russia, and threatened retaliation, including unspecified “military-technical” measures.
It came even as Russia’s war in Ukraine was suffering another big setback, with Ukrainian forces driving Russian troops out of the region around the second largest city Kharkiv, the fastest Ukrainian advance since forcing Russia to withdraw from the capital and northeast more than a month ago.
French President Emmanuel Macron and EU Commission Ursula von der Leyen welcomed Finland’s bid to join the military alliance, prompting warnings it could cost Europe the start of World War 3.
French MP Nicolas Dupont-Aignan blasted: “By supporting Finland’s membership of NATO, von Der Leyen and Emmanuel Macron, Biden’s little poodles, are engaging Europe for an all-out war against Russia!
“Pure madness for the European continent!.”
The White House said on Thursday it would support any move by Finland and Sweden to join NATO in reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“We would support a NATO application by Finland and-or Sweden should they apply. We would respect any decision they make,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.
In Geneva, the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution to set up an investigation into possible war crimes by Russian troops in the Kyiv area and beyond before they were driven out at the end of March, a move that Russia said amounted to political score-settling.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said there were many examples of possible war crimes, including unlawful killings and summary executions.
Asked whether Finland’s accession posed a direct threat to Russia, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “Definitely. NATO expansion does not make our continent more stable and secure.
Russia’s foreign ministry said Moscow would be forced to take “retaliatory steps, both of a military-technical and other nature”, giving no further details. Russian officials have spoken in the past about potential measures including stationing nuclear-armed missiles on the Baltic Sea.
Asked on Wednesday, May 11, if Finland would provoke Russia by joining NATO, Niinisto said: “My response would be that you caused this. Look at the mirror.”