HELSINKI ( Associated Press) — The Finnish president warned his Russian colleague Vladimir Putin in a phone conversation Saturday that the Nordic country — which has a long border and a long history with Russia — “is going to decide to apply for NATO membership in the next days”.
In a statement, the Finnish head of state’s office said Sauli Niinisto told Putin how completely the security environment had changed since Moscow invaded Ukraine on February 24. He took aim at Russia’s demands that Finland refrain from applying to join the Western military alliance.
“The discussion with Putin was direct and unequivocal and was conducted without exaggeration. Avoiding tensions was considered important,” said Niinisto, Finland’s president since 2012 and one of the few Western leaders to have had regular dialogue with the Russian president in the past 10 years.
Niinisto stressed that he had already told Putin at their first meeting in 2012 that “every independent nation is going to maximize its own security.”
“It’s still like that. By joining NATO, Finland will strengthen its own security and assume its responsibilities. It is not an estrangement from anyone,” Niinisto added.
He stressed that Finland, despite its future membership in NATO, wants to continue dealing with Russia bilaterally on “practical issues generated by the border neighborhood” and hopes to work with Moscow “in a professional manner.”
The call was made at the initiative of Finland, Niinisto’s office added.
Finland has a 1,340-kilometre (830-mile) border with Russia, the longest of a member of the European Union.
Niinisto and Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin on Thursday jointly endorsed Finland’s NATO membership, recommending that the country “should apply for NATO membership without delay” to ensure the nation’s security amid ongoing military operations. Russia in Ukraine and the changed geopolitical and security landscape in Europe.