Finland Joining NATO Will Be 'Smooth and Swift,' Says Secretary-General

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed Finland's newly announced petition to join the alliance and promised a "smooth and swift" process.

In a statement emailed to Newsweek, Stoltenberg said: "I welcome the joint statement by President [Sauli] Niinistö and Prime Minister [Sanna] Marin supporting an application for NATO membership without delay. This is a sovereign decision by Finland, which NATO fully respects.

"Should Finland decide to apply, they would be warmly welcomed into NATO, and the accession process would be smooth and swift."

Stoltenberg called Finland "one of NATO's closest partners, a mature democracy, a member of the European Union, and an important contributor to Euro-Atlantic security."

NATO's Jens Stoltenberg holds a press conference
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg takes part in a press conference at the European Parliament in Brussels on April 28, 2022. In a statement to Newsweek, Stoltenberg welcomed Finland's newly announced bid to join NATO. KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP via Getty Images

"I agree with President Niinistö and Prime Minister Marin that NATO membership would strengthen both NATO and Finland's security," he said. "Finnish membership would demonstrate that NATO's door is open, and that Finland decides its own future."

Niinistö and Marin announced the move on Thursday, a decision Finland had been weighing in light of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"As a member of NATO, Finland would strengthen the entire defence alliance," both leaders said in a statement. "Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay.

"We hope that the national steps still needed to make this decision will be taken rapidly within the next few days."

In response to Helsinki's announcement, Russia's foreign ministry said it will be "forced to take retaliatory steps, both of a military-technical and other nature to stop the threats to its national security," according to RIA Novosti.

And less than an hour after the Finnish announcement, Dmitry Medvedev—deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council—warned of possible nuclear war in a Telegram post that did not mention Finland by name.

"The pumping of Ukraine by NATO countries with weapons, the training of its troops to use Western equipment, the dispatch of mercenaries and the conduct of exercises by the countries of the Alliance near our borders increase the likelihood of a direct and open conflict between NATO and Russia instead of their 'war by proxy,'" Medvedev said.

"Such a conflict always has the risk of turning into a full-fledged nuclear war."

Already a key partner of NATO, Helsinki is looking to the alliance after Russia's recent policies have prompted security concerns across Europe. NATO membership would mean being covered by Article 5, which deems an attack on one member as an attack on all.

Public opinion in Finland has shifted substantially with recent polls finding that the majority of Finns would support their country joining NATO. Finnish think tank Eva found the number to have leaped from 26 percent in 2021 to 60 percent in 2022.

Sweden—another NATO non-member and partner—is expected to follow suit in petitioning for membership. In doing so, Finland and Sweden would abandon decades-old policies of neutrality.

During a Wednesday visit to Stockholm, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he had signed security deals with Finland and Sweden, promising to support both nations in the event of an attack.

Update 05/12/05, 9:12 a.m. EDT: This article has been updated with additional context.