Finland's parliament votes overwhelmingly for the country to join NATO after Russia's invasion of Ukraine
Finland's parliament overwhelmingly voted in favor of the Nordic country joining NATO. Swedenalso signed a formal request to join NATO on Tuesday.
Members of Finland's parliament voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday for the country to join NATO amid growing defense and security concerns in the wake of
Lawmakers voted 188-8 to approve the country joining the 73-year-old defense alliance, The Associated Press reported.
After Russia launched a large-scale invasion of Ukraine in late February, public and political support for joining NATO reached an all-time high in Finland, which shares an 800-mile border with Russia.
The vote Tuesday comes after Finland's president and prime minister said on Sunday that they wanted their country to apply to join alliance.
Meanwhile, Finland's next-door neighbor Sweden signed a formal request on Tuesday to join NATO. Much like Finland, Sweden's move to join the alliance was also prompted by Russia's war in Ukraine. Stockholm and Helsinki have moved at a near-identical pace toward joining the alliance since Russia invaded its neighbor.
"It feels like we have taken a decision that is the best for Sweden," Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde said as she signed the request, which will be sent to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, per the Associated Press.
Finland and Sweden remained neutral throughout the Cold War, and their pursuit of NATO membership marks a historic change in policy. They became NATO partner countries following the collapse of the Soviet Union, but they stopped short of pursuing full membership. Both countries have made clear that Russia is to blame for their rapid shift toward joining NATO.
Russia has repeatedly threatened to retaliate against the two countries if they apply to join, though the country's leaders have given more measured statements in recent days and painted Finland and Sweden joining as something that would not pose a large threat to Russia.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday said that Finland and Sweden joining NATO probably wouldn't make much of a difference, adding, "Finland and Sweden, as well as other neutral countries, have been participating in NATO military exercises for many years," Reuters reported.
Stoltenberg, the NATO chief, has signaled that Finland and Sweden will be welcomed into the alliance with open arms. But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed opposition to enlarging the alliance to include the Scandinavian countries. Expanding NATO requires unanimous support from all current members.
Erdogan has accused Finland and Sweden of supporting terrorists over their relations with Kurdish militants, also stating that Ankara can't endorse adding countries to NATO that have imposed sanctions on Turkey. Erdogan and other Turkish officials have hinted that Ankara is seeking concessions on these issues before Turkey will support the accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO.
Both the NATO chief and Finland's president have expressed confidence that Turkey ultimately won't stand in the way of enlarging the alliance.
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