Finland regions

NATO chief says Finland welcome to join allies

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Friday that the US-led alliance of 30 members would “warmly welcome” Finland if the Nordic country applied for membership in light of the Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said on Thursday that the country, which shares a 1,300 kilometer border with Russia, would soon clarify the next steps regarding the possibility of it applying for NATO membership. .

Local media showed Finland’s support for NATO membership hit an all-time high after Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking to CNBC’s Hadley Gamble on Friday, NATO’s Stoltenberg said Finland’s decision to consider joining the NATO military alliance was a “direct result” of its neighbor’s invasion by Russia on February 24.

“The message from NATO and myself is that it’s up to Finland to decide,” Stoltenberg said.

“We will respect the decision regardless of the conclusion, but if Finland decides to apply for membership, I am sure that the NATO allies will welcome it warmly – and we can make the decision quite quickly to have it as a member. of the allies,” he added.

Sweden has also signaled that it is ready to reconsider its policy of non-alignment as the war in Ukraine prompts a surge in support for NATO membership. A flurry of opinion polls in Sweden released since early March show that almost half are now in favor of NATO membership.

Stoltenberg’s comments come shortly after a two-day meeting of foreign ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, and as Russia continues redeployment of forces in eastern Ukraine.

It is believed that the Kremlin is preparing for an offensive in the Donbass region in the coming days.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Thursday urged the military alliance to provide kyiv with more weapons to defend against Russian forces.

“Weapons, Weapons and Weapons”

Kuleba warned of further atrocities like the killings of civilians in Bucha unless Ukraine was quickly supported with additional military aid. Ukraine is not a member of NATO, but it has received support from the alliance since the Russian invasion on February 24 – and many member states have already supplied weapons to kyiv.

However, there are fears that supplying Ukraine with more weapons, especially heavier offensive equipment such as tanks and fighter jets, could lead to a direct conflict between Russia and NATO.

Speaking ahead of Thursday’s ministerial meeting, Kuleba said, “My agenda is very simple. It has only three points. It’s about weapons, weapons and weapons.” He warned that the resistance Ukrainian forces had shown in recent weeks would come with “enormous sacrifices” in the absence of even greater support from NATO.

On Friday, NATO’s Stoltenberg declined to go into specifics about the types of weapons that would be supplied to Ukraine, citing “operational reasons”. However, he said the alliance would supply kyiv with a “wide range” of both older and more modern weapons.

Stoltenberg said NATO allies recognize the urgent need to offer additional support to Ukraine.