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Explained: Why Finland wants to join NATO; why is Putin against it?

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Finland President Sauli Niinisto confirmed on Sunday that his country will apply for membership of the Intergovernmental organisation (NATO) military alliance, in a historic policy shift prompted by the Ukraine war. Since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, the Russian neighbours have been considering applying for membership of the 30-year-old military alliance. Meanwhile, NATO’s deputy chief has said he was confident that the organisation can overcome objections by Turkey and quickly admit Finland and Sweden. On Saturday, Turkey’s foreign minister unexpectedly raised objections and called the move “unacceptable and outrageous,” Reuters reported.

Significance of Finland joining NATO

1. Finland was declared independent in 1917 after more than a century of rule by Moscow. Its army twice fought off Soviet forces during the second world war before ceding about 10 per cent of its territory, US media outlet The Guardian reported.

2. If Finland joins the NATO, it will be one of the quickest enlargements for the alliance. Furthermore, Russia and Finland share a 1,300-km border. If Finland joins, it would double the length of the alliance’s border with Russia.

3. Russia’s second biggest city, St. Petersburg, lies some 170 km from the border with Finland. Finland and Sweden joining the NATO will mark an overhaul and redrawing of Europe’s security map in the East.

Conditions put forward by Finland, Sweden

1. NATO diplomats say the application process of Finland and Sweden can take almost a year as parliaments of all 30 NATO countries need to approve new members.Finland and Sweden have asked for some guarantees that NATO member nations would defend them during this period until they become full members.

2. Sweden and Finland have already received assurances from the US, Germany and Britain of support should they come under attack.

Current relationship between Finland and NATO

1. Finland and Sweden are NATO’s closest partners. They contribute to the alliance’s operations and air policing. After the Russian invasion in Ukraine, they formally boosted information exchanges with the NATO and sat in on every meeting on war issues.

2. Finland says it’s already hit NATO’s defence spending guideline of 2 per cent of gross domestic product. Sweden too is ramping up its military budget and expects to reach the target by 2028. The NATO average was estimated at 1.6 per cent last year.

Putin’s warning to Finland

Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinisto on Saturday ditching neutrality and joining the NATO “would be a mistake” that could damage relations between their two countries, Reuters reported. Russia has, in parts, blamed NATO’s Eastward expansion for war with Ukraine. Putin has promised a “military, technical” response if they join the alliance.

(With inputs from Reuters, AP)

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