Finland says it reserves right to join NATO despite opposition from Russia

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Finland says it reserves right to join NATO despite opposition from Russia

Finland’s leaders say they will decide whether to join NATO despite warnings ​from Russia against joining the Western alliance, as the military standoff on Ukraine’s border has heightened tensions between Moscow, the US and Washington’s European allies. ​

“Finland’s room to maneuver and freedom of choice also include the possibility of military alignment and applying for NATO membership, should we ourselves so decide,” President Sauli Niinistö said in a New Year’s address over the weekend.

Niinistö also urged the European Union to become actively involved in curbing Russian aggression, saying: “In this situation, Europe cannot just listen in.”

Prime Minister Sanna Marin echoed Niinisto’s sentiments in her comments, saying Finland, which shares a border with Russia, will make its own security decisions. 

“We have shown that we have learnt from the past,” she said. “We will not let go of our room for maneuver.”

Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin agreed with Finland's president Sauli Niinistö that despite sharing a border with Russia, the country will make its own security decisions.
Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin agreed with Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö that despite sharing a border with Russia, the country will make its own security decisions.
Kenzo Tribouillard/Pool via REUTERS
 Prime Minister of Finland Sanna Marin (right) meets NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (Left), in Finlandia Hall in Helsinki,  Finland on October 25, 2021.
Prime Minister of Finland Sanna Marin (right) meets NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (left), in Finlandia Hall in Helsinki, Finland on October 25, 2021.
EPA/KIMMO BRANDT

Putin has demanded the United States and its allies provide security guarantees that Ukraine and other former Soviet bloc nations will not be allowed to become NATO members.​

Russia’s foreign ministry last week accused NATO of pursuing Sweden and Finland to join the military alliance.

“It is quite obvious that the ascension of Finland and Sweden to NATO would have serious military and political consequences that would require an adequate response from Russia,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said at the time.

President Sauli Niinisto said in an address that Finland still retains its freedom to apply for NATO membership as well deciding its own military alignment.
President Sauli Niinisto said in an address that Finland still retains its freedom to apply for NATO membership as well deciding its own military alignment.
EPA/MAURI RATILAINEN

“The policy of not being part of any alliances, traditionally pursued by Stockholm and Helsinki, is viewed by Moscow as an important factor in ensuring stability in northern Europe,” ​she continued.​

The two Nordic countries held a policy of neutrality during the Cold War (Sweden was also neutral in both World War I and World War II), but recent aggressive military movements on Ukraine’s border by Moscow and Putin’s demand for security guarantees may have tipped the scales. 

​​”​We must have a rules-based world order, where we have international law and each country has the right to make its own security policy choices,” ​Swedish foreign minister Ann Linde said last month. ​

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova accused NATO of pursuing Sweden and Finland to join the military alliance.
Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova accused NATO of pursuing Sweden and Finland to join the military alliance.
Russian Foreign Ministry/TASS via ZUMA Press

Putin is pushing for the security guarantees even as he has amassed thousands of troops and military equipment along the Ukrainian border, a move the West views as a potential prelude to an invasion.

President Biden has spoken to both Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky twice in the last month about the tense situation.

In his Sunday call with Zelensky, the president told him that the “United States and its allies and partners will respond decisively if Russia further invades Ukraine,” according to a readout provided by the White House

provide security guarantees that Ukraine and other former Soviet bloc nations will not be allowed to become NATO members.​
Russian President is demanding that the US and NATO provide security guarantees that Ukraine and other former Soviet bloc nations will not be allowed to become NATO members.​
AP

Biden also “reaffirmed” the US’ commitment to “Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Talks on the security guarantees are scheduled for Jan. 10 in Geneva between Washington and Moscow officials.

With Post wires

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