In a major blow to Russia, Finland set to join NATO
NATO foreign ministers are gathering in Brussels to discuss the war in Ukraine as Finland is set to become the 31st member of the alliance.
NATO foreign ministers are meeting on Tuesday at the alliance's headquarters in Brussels for a two-day summit to discuss the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine. The meeting coincides with the 74th anniversary of the alliance's founding.
At the same time, Finland is becoming the 31st member of NATO, doubling the length of the alliance's border with Russia. Although Finland had to overcome Turkish opposition, the Nordic country completed all the formalities in well under a year, making it the fastest accession process in the alliance's recent history.
Only the ceremonial part remains. Finland's foreign minister will hand the accession papers to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the keeper of NATO's founding treaty, and then the country's blue-and-white flag will be raised hoisted alongside those of its new allies, in front of the gleaming headquarters in Brussels.
Stoltenberg: Putin is getting the opposite of what he wanted
Finland's accession to NATO will be a historic event and direct result of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said, adding the alliance would ensure that Sweden will also become a full-fledged member.
"[Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin had as a declared goal of the invasion of Ukraine to get less NATO," he told reporters ahead of a meeting of the alliance's foreign ministers. "He is getting exactly the opposite. ... Finland today, and soon also Sweden will become a full fledged member of the alliance."
Russia said it would be forced to take "countermeasures" to ensure Russia's security in response to Finland joining NATO. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called Helsinki's move to join the bloc an "encroachment" on Russia's security and said the structure of NATO was hostile towards Russia.
Finland is in, Sweden still out
The event marks the end of an era of military non-alignment for Finland that began after the country repelled an invasion attempt by the Soviet Union during World War Two and opted to try to maintain friendly relations with neighbouring Russia.
Finland applied for NATO membership alongside Sweden in May 2022 in the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but its application got tangled up in Ankara's opposition to Sweden's entry.
Sweden's application for membership remains blocked by Turkey due to a number of sticking points, among them Ankara's concerns over what it says is a lack of cooperation in fighting terrorism. All NATO members must unanimously agree to admit new members.
Talks with Ukraine
The accession ceremony for Finland will be followed by a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission, a high-level forum for ministers of the alliance to discuss cooperation with Kiev. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba is to take part.
The NATO-Ukraine Commission meeting is taking place over objections from Hungary. Budapest has accused Ukraine of failing to respect the Hungarian language rights of the country's Transcarpathian ethnic minority.
Hungary, like Turkey, has also not yet ratified Sweden's NATO membership. In a government statement, Hungary cited "an ample amount of grievances" with Sweden over EU budget funds, among other things.
dh/es (AFP, dpa, Reuters)