May 17 (UPI) — Finland’s parliament voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to join NATO, in an historic response to Russia’s war with Ukraine.
Parliament members voted 188-8 to approve the Nordic nation’s application to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, after decades of neutrality.
Sweden also signed a formal request Tuesday to join the 73-year-old defense alliance. The decision followed a debate and broad support in Sweden’s legislature, the Riksdag.
Finland shares a border with Sweden and an 800-mile border with Russia. Both Nordic nations have moved quickly to join the defense alliance, after Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in February.
Finland President Sauli Niinisto said the invasion shows Russia is “ready to attack a neighboring country.”
“For us, joining NATO would be not against anybody — we would like to maximize our security,” Niinisto said.
Finland and Sweden both announced Sunday they would vote in favor of joining NATO.
“We Social Democrats consider that the best for Sweden and the Swedish people’s security is that we join NATO,” Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said during a news conference Sunday. “This is a decision that we have made after very careful consideration.”
“A lot has happened. This is a historic day. A new era is opening up. I would like to pay special attention to how democracy has worked in Finland,” Niinisto said.
Russia threatened retaliation against Finland last week, after Finland’s president and prime minister announced support for joining NATO. But Russian President Vladimir Putin had a more muted response to recent moves by Finland and Sweden to join the military alliance.
“I would like to inform you… there are no problems with these states, and therefore, in this sense, expansion at the expense of these countries does not pose a direct threat to Russia,” Putin said.