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Finnish leaders announce backing for NATO membership

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Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö and Prime Minister Sanna Marin on Thursday officially endorsed the idea that their country should join NATO, a historic move that sets the stage for a membership application in the coming days, according to Politico.

Until recently, Finnish leaders saw NATO membership as an unnecessary provocation of Moscow, but since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, Niinistö and Marin have signaled a new openness to joining the alliance and benefiting from its mutual defense clause.

“Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay,” the two leaders said in a joint statement. “We hope that the national steps still needed to make this decision will be taken rapidly within the next few days.”

Marin’s Social Democratic Party is expected to announce its position on Saturday, and if it comes out in favor, Finland could ask to join NATO as soon as next week.

Finland has spent much of the period since World War II trying to strike a political balance between east and west but Moscow’s war in Ukraine prompted a fundamental shift in the country’s geopolitical thinking.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted a similar rethink in Sweden, whose leaders are also expected to come out in favor of NATO membership in the coming days.