Brussels, Belgium – NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg declared a historic moment for the alliance as Finland is set to become the 31st member of NATO on Tuesday. In a press conference held in Brussels, Stoltenberg emphasized the significance of Finland’s accession, stating that it will enhance the security of Finland, Northern Europe, and the overall strength of NATO.
Stoltenberg announced, “Tomorrow, we will officially welcome Finland as the 31st member of NATO, marking a momentous occasion that will reinforce Finland’s security and further strengthen our alliance.” He added, “For the first time, we will raise the Finnish flag here at NATO Headquarters, symbolizing the commitment to collective defense and solidarity. It will be a momentous day for Finland, Northern Europe, and NATO as a whole.”
The ceremony will be attended by Finnish President Sauli Niinistö, who will travel to Brussels to participate in the momentous occasion, as confirmed by his office. The decision for Finland’s NATO membership gained momentum following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, prompting Finland and Sweden to submit their applications for NATO membership. With Finland sharing a 1,300 km (810 mi) border with Russia, NATO’s border with Russia is set to approximately double in size, leading to increased security measures and the strengthening of deterrence.
The final hurdle for Finland’s NATO membership was cleared last week when the Turkish parliament ratified Helsinki’s bid, despite suspending Sweden’s application. Speaking about the developments, Stoltenberg emphasized the significance of NATO’s role in countering aggression, stating, “President Putin went to war against Ukraine with the explicit objective of weakening NATO. Instead, his actions have only reinforced our resolve and showcased the importance of collective defense.”
However, Sweden’s path to NATO membership still faces obstacles as Turkey continues to block its candidacy. Turkey alleges that Stockholm is providing refuge to individuals Ankara considers terrorists and seeks their extradition as a condition for endorsing Sweden’s membership. Sweden vehemently denies these allegations, highlighting its commitment to combating terrorism and adhering to international obligations.
Hungary is also creating delays in Sweden’s admission, citing concerns with criticism directed at Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s policies. Nevertheless, NATO diplomats indicate that Hungary is likely to support Sweden’s bid once it observes positive progress from Turkey in relation to Sweden’s membership.
Secretary General Stoltenberg reaffirmed NATO’s determination to expedite Sweden’s integration into the alliance, emphasizing that the necessary steps are already being taken by the alliance and Swedish officials. Although the final decision is pending, Stoltenberg reiterated NATO’s commitment to facilitating Sweden’s accession as swiftly as possible, recognizing the importance of maintaining unity and collective security in an ever-changing geopolitical landscape.
Finland’s entry into NATO solidifies the alliance’s strength and underscores the commitment to regional security. As NATO continues to evolve, the addition of Finland and the ongoing efforts to support Sweden’s membership further enhance the collective defense capabilities of the alliance. The 31-member alliance stands united in promoting peace, stability, and cooperation, as it addresses emerging challenges and ensures the safety and prosperity of its member nations.