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Finland will apply to join NATO, abandoning decades of neutrality despite Russian threats of retaliation

The decision was announced at a joint press conference on Sunday with President Sauli Niinistö and Prime Minister Sanna Marin, who said the decision needed to be ratified by the country’s parliament before it could go ahead.

“We hope parliament will confirm the decision to apply for NATO membership,” Marin told a news conference in Helsinki on Sunday. “Over the next few days. It will be based on a strong mandate, with the President of the Republic. We have been in close contact with the governments of NATO member states and with NATO itself.

The move would take the US-led military alliance to Finland’s 830-mile border with Russia, but could take months to finalize as legislatures from the current 30 members must approve new nominees.

It also risks provoking the ire of Russia, whose President Vladimir Putin told his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinistö on Saturday that abandoning military neutrality and joining the bloc would be a “mistake”, according to a Kremlin statement. On Saturday, Russia cut off its electricity supply to the Nordic country over problems receiving payments.

Since the end of World War II, when Finland was invaded by the Soviet Union, the country has been militarily non-aligned and nominally neutral in order to avoid provoking Russia. He sometimes indulged in Kremlin security concerns and tried to maintain good trade relations.

The invasion of Ukraine changed this calculation.

On Saturday, Niinistö called for informing Putin of Finland’s intentions to join the bloc, saying that “Russia’s demands at the end of 2021 aimed at preventing countries from joining NATO and Russia’s massive invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 has changed Finland’s security environment,” according to a statement from Finland’s president’s office.

Sweden has expressed similar frustrations and is also expected to make a similar move to join NATO.

Both countries already meet many criteria for NATO membership, which include a functioning democratic political system based on a market economy; treat minority populations fairly; commit to resolving conflicts peacefully; the ability and willingness to make a military contribution to NATO operations; and commit to democratic civil-military relations and institutions.

NATO member Turkey, which has presented itself as a mediator between Russia and Ukraine, has expressed reservations about bringing Finland and Sweden into the alliance. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday he did not view Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership as “positive”, accusing the two countries of harboring Kurdish “terrorist organisations”.

CNN’s Joshua Berlinger contributed to this article.

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