Finland’s leaders today said that they are in favor of rapidly applying for the NATO membership. It will pave the way for a historic expansion of the alliance. The move by Finland was announced by President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin. It means that Finland is all but certain to join NATO, though a few steps remain before the application process can begin. Neighbouring Sweden is expected to decide on joining NATO in coming days.

Mr Niinisto and Ms Marin in a joint statement said that NATO membership would strengthen Finland’s security. They said, as a member of NATO, Finland would strengthen the entire defence alliance. Finland shares a 1,340-kilometre land border with Russia.

Meanwhile, Russia said that Finland’s move to join NATO would not help stability and security in Europe.

Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russia’s response to the move would depend on what specific steps NATO will take to bring its infrastructure close to Russian borders. He noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin already had ordered to work out steps to strengthen the country’s defence in the west in response to NATO’s expansion closer to Russian territory.