Finland to join Nato on Tuesday as Russia sounds border warning

In World

Finland will become the 31st member of the world’s biggest military alliance on Tuesday, the Nato secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, has said, prompting a warning from Russia that it would bolster its defences near their joint border if Nato deploys any troops inside the country.

“This is a historic week,” Stoltenberg told reporters on the eve of a meeting of Nato foreign ministers in Brussels. “From tomorrow, Finland will be a full member of the alliance.” He said he hoped Sweden would be able to join in coming months.

Stoltenberg, a former Norwegian prime minister, said that on Tuesday afternoon, “we will raise the Finnish flag for the first time here at the Nato headquarters. It will be a good day for Finland’s security, for Nordic security, and for Nato as a whole.”

Stoltenberg said Turkey, the last country to ratify Finland’s membership, would hand its official texts to the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, on Tuesday. Stoltenberg said he would then invite Finland to do the same.

The Finnish president, Sauli Niinistö, and the defence minister, Antti Kaikkonen, will attend the ceremony, along with the foreign minister, Pekka Haavisto.

“It is a historic moment for us. For Finland, the most important objective at the meeting will be to emphasise Nato support to Ukraine as Russia continues its illegal aggression,” Haavisto said in a statement. “We seek to promote stability and security throughout the Euro-Atlantic region.”

Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Alexander Grushko, said Moscow would respond to Finland becoming a member of the alliance by bolstering its defences if needed.

“We will strengthen our military potential in the west and in the north-west,” Grushko said in remarks carried by the RIA Novosti state news agency. “In case of deployment of forces of other Nato members on the territory of Finland, we will take addition steps to ensure Russia’s military security.”

The announcement of Finland’s entry came hours after Finnish voters gave a boost to conservative parties in a weekend election, depriving the leftwing prime minister, Sanna Marin, of another term. Marin had championed her country’s Nato accession.

Fearing they might be targeted after Russia invaded Ukraine a year ago, the Nordic neighbours Finland and Sweden abandoned their traditional positions of military non-alignment to seek protection under Nato’s security umbrella.

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All 30 allies signed Finland’s and Sweden’s accession protocols. Turkey and Hungary delayed the process for months but have relented on Finland. Turkey has sought guarantees and assurances from the two countries, notably on tackling extremism. Hungary’s demands have never been explicit.

Nato must agree unanimously for new members to join. The alliance’s officials are also keen to bring Sweden within the fold before a meeting between the US president, Joe Biden, and his Nato counterparts in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, on 11-12 July.

“Sweden is not left alone. Sweden is as close as it can come as a fully fledged member,” Stoltenberg said.

Read More: Finland to join Nato on Tuesday as Russia sounds border warning

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