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Finland's President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin at a press conference on Finland's security policy decisions. AP/PA Images

Finnish parliament votes overwhelmingly in favour of NATO membership

Germany also plans to ramp up its military collaboration with Sweden and Finland as they seek to join NATO.

LAWMAKERS IN FINLAND today voted overwhelmingly in favour of joining NATO as a deterrent against Russian aggression, paving the way for an application to be submitted in the coming days.

A total of 188 of 200 members of parliament voted in favour of NATO membership, a dramatic turnaround from Finland’s military non-alignment policy dating back more than 75 years, prompted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Finland spent more than a century as part of the Russian empire until it gained independence in 1917.

Meanwhile, Germany plans to ramp up its military collaboration with Sweden and Finland as the two countries seek NATO membership.

“We will intensify our military cooperation, especially in the Baltic Sea region and through joint exercises,” Scholz said amid concern for the two candidates’ security during the transition period to NATO accession.

“It is already clear that our countries are bound together by an obligation to provide each other with all possible assistance and support for mutual protection” as members of the United Nations and the European Union, Scholz added.

“Both countries can always rely on our support, especially in this very special situation,” he said.

With Moscow pressing its assault in eastern border regions of Ukraine nearly three months into its invasion, Helsinki and Stockholm are poised to give up decades of military non-alignment over fears they could be next.

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson confirmed on Monday her country would apply to join NATO, a day after Finland — which shares a 1,300-kilometre (800-mile) border with Russia — said the same.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose war has sparked global outrage, said the move poses “no direct threat for us… but the expansion of military infrastructure to these territories will certainly provoke our response”.

NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg told a meeting of the alliance in Berlin on Sunday that it would “look into ways to provide security assurances including by increasing NATO presence in the region” during the transition period.

“Finland and Sweden are concerned about the interim period… we will try to speed up that process,” he said.

US President Joe Biden will host the leaders of Finland and Sweden at the White House on Thursday to discuss their historic bids to join NATO in the wake of the invasion.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Sweden’s Prime Minister will meet Biden to discuss the “NATO applications and European security, as well as strengthening our close partnerships across a range of global issues and support for Ukraine,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

 © AFP 2022

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