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Finland announces its bid to join NATO

On Saturday, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö called his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin about the Scandinavian country’s efforts to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which angered Moscow. In a conversation he described as “frank, direct and did not witness tension.”

“The conversation was frank, direct and did not witness tension,” Niinistö said in a statement issued by the Finnish presidency. “The avoidance of tension was considered important. The contact was made at the initiative of Finland.”

For his part, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned his Finnish counterpart that relations between the two neighboring countries could be “negatively affected” if Finland goes ahead with its plans to apply for NATO membership.

The Kremlin press service said in a statement that Putin told Niinistö that for Finland to abandon its “traditional policy of military neutrality would be a mistake, because there are no threats to Finland’s security.”

“Such a change in the country’s foreign policy may negatively affect Russian-Finnish relations, which have been built in the spirit of good-neighbourliness and partnership for many years, and have been mutually beneficial,” the statement said.

Niinisto’s office said in a statement that the Finnish president told Putin how the Finnish security environment has changed dramatically after the Russian military operation in Ukraine on February 24, and addressed Russia’s demands regarding Finland’s refrain from seeking to join the 30-member Western military alliance.

Niinisto and Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin on Thursday jointly supported Finland’s NATO bid and recommended that the country “must apply for NATO membership without delay” to ensure Finland’s security amid Russia’s military exercises in Ukraine and the changing geopolitical and security landscape in Europe.

NATO was confident that consensus would be reached on the membership of Sweden and Finland.

On Sunday, NATO’s deputy secretary-general said he was confident that Turkey’s concerns about Finland and Sweden joining the alliance could be addressed.

“Turkey is an important ally and has expressed its concerns, which are being addressed among friends and allies,” Mircea Guana told reporters upon his arrival at the meeting of foreign ministers of the coalition countries in Berlin.

“I am confident that if these two countries decide to seek NATO membership, we can welcome them and reach all the terms of consensus,” he added.

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