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    HomeWorldEuropeFinland to clarify next steps on possible NATO entry within weeks

    Finland to clarify next steps on possible NATO entry within weeks

    HELSINKI (Reuters) -Finland will clarify next steps regarding a possible decision to seek NATO membership in the coming weeks, Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told reporters after attending a NATO foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels on Thursday.

    Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February, opinion polls commissioned by Finnish media outlets have shown a swift U-turn in public opinion in Finland with the majority now favouring joining U.S.-led NATO.

    Finland, a European Union member state, shares a 1,300-km (810-mile) border with Russia.Haavisto said Russia's invasion had shown that Russia is willing to take increasing risks in its military operations, can quickly mobilise more than 100,000 soldiers against a neighbouring country, and has mooted more openly than before the possible use of its nuclear and biological weapons.

    "There we come to a situation in which we may need cooperation," Haavisto said, alluding to NATO.

    He added that NATO member countries have offered to help Finland with ensuring security during an application process and said they estimate it would take from four months to one year to approve the application.

    "There is an important NATO summit in Madrid in June. Of course NATO is wondering whether Finland and possibly Sweden will have submitted their membership applications before that," Haavisto said.

    He said the government will next week give the Finnish parliament a review on how Russia's decision to attack Ukraine has changed Finland's security. But he added the government was prepared to quickly propose joining NATO if there was sufficient support from parliament.

    After fighting with the Soviet Union during World War Two, Finland has based security policy on maintaining a credible defence and friendly relations with its much larger neighbour.

    The Nordic nation ularly participates in defence training with neighbouring Sweden and Norway, is a member of British-led JEF forces and in 2014 joined NATO's enhanced opportunities program together with Sweden, Australia, Georgia and Jordan.

    (Reporting by Essi Lehto and Anne Kauranen in Helsinki Editing by Mark Heinrich)




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