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Russia’s neighbor Finland announces it wants to join NATO

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BERLIN A senior NATO official said on Sunday that Russia’s military progress in Ukraine appeared to be faltering and he expressed hope that Kiev could win the war after Russia’s neighbor Finland announced it wanted to join the Western military alliance.

Senior NATO diplomats are meeting in Berlin on Sunday to discuss providing further support to Ukraine and moves by Finland, Sweden and others to join NATO in the face of threats from Russia.

“The brutal invasion (of) Russia is losing momentum,” NATO Deputy Secretary-General Mircea Geoana told reporters. “We know that with the courage of the Ukrainian people and army and with our help, Ukraine can win this war.”

The president and government of Finland announced on Sunday that the formerly Nordic neutral country that shares a long border with Russia intends to apply for NATO membership, paving the way for the expansion of the 30-member Western military alliance.

President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin made the announcement at a joint press conference at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki.

“This is a historic day. A new era begins,” Niinisto said.

The Finnish Parliament is expected to approve the decision in the coming days, but it is considered a formality.

A formal application for membership will then be submitted to NATO headquarters in Brussels, most likely at some point next week.

Geoana, who chaired the meeting as NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg recovers from a COVID-19 infection, said Ukraine’s supporters were “united, we are strong, we will continue to help Ukraine win this”. war”.

A key issue being discussed in Berlin is NATO enlargement beyond its 30 current member states.

Sweden has also taken steps towards joining the alliance, while Georgia’s bid is being discussed again, despite dire warnings from Moscow about the consequences if its neighbor joins NATO.

“Finland and Sweden are already NATO’s closest partners,” Geoana said, adding that he expected the Allies to view their applications positively.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said her country and others made it clear during a dinner late Saturday that they would be ready to speed up the national ratification process for Finland and Sweden.

“If these two countries decide to unite, they can unite very quickly,” she said.

Denmark’s foreign minister has dismissed suggestions that opposition from Russian President Vladimir Putin could prevent the alliance from allowing new members.

“Every European country has a fundamental right to choose its own security agreement,” Jeppe Kofod told reporters.

“We now see a world where the number one enemy of democracy is Putin and the opinion he represents,” he said, adding that NATO would also stand with other countries, such as Georgia, which he said were being “instrumentalized” by Russia. .

On the sidelines of the meeting, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met earlier Sunday with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba to discuss the impact of the war and how to bring Ukrainian wheat to international markets.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said Blinken “stressed the United States’ firm commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s unprovoked war.”

The British chief diplomat said NATO members would also discuss security issues across Europe during their meeting on Sunday, referring to growing concern among democratic nations over China’s rise.

“In addition to protecting Euro-Atlantic security, we must also take care of Indo-Pacific security,” said Secretary of State Liz Truss.

The meeting follows a meeting of foreign ministers from the group of seven major economies on the German Baltic coast this week. Officials there voiced strong support for Ukraine and warned that Russian blockade of grain exports from Ukrainian ports risks triggering a global food crisis.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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