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Putin's worst nightmare: Finland set to join Nato after Boris agrees defence pact
12 May 2022, 08:53 | Updated: 12 May 2022, 08:57
Finland is set to apply to join Nato and ending decades of neutrality in a massive blow to Vladimir Putin.
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The seismic shift in the European geopolitical landscape follows Moscow's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
It comes after Britain agreed a security deal with Sweden and Finland, which shares an 830-mile border with Russia, amid fears over whether Putin will target other neighbouring countries.
The Baltic states, which are in Nato, have been nervous about attempts to destabilise them. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are former Soviet states and Finland was once taken over by Russia and absorbed as a duchy.
It also fought the Soviet Union during the Second World War.
On Thursday, Finland's president Sauli Niinisto and prime minister Sanna Marin said they are in favour of Nato membership, reversing decades of their country's neutrality.
Now that the moment of decision-making is near, we state our equal views, also for information to the parliamentary groups and parties," Mr Niinisto and Ms Marin said in a joint statement.
"Nato membership would strengthen Finland's security."
"As a member of Nato, Finland would strengthen the entire defence alliance," they said.
"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."
Finland remained a neutral state during the Cold War, refusing to join Nato or side with the Soviet Union. It did, however, join the European Union in 1995.
Its fellow Nordic country Sweden is also weighing up joining Nato, a defensive alliance that Putin has repeatedly decried as expanding into countries Russia believes should be in its sphere of influence.
Nato says it is not designed to just oppose Russia and that its members make the choice about whether they join.
Putin's bloody, unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has pushed Finland into siding militarily with the UK, US, Canada and European powers, and that represents a major strategic blow to the Kremlin, which wants Nato to largely withdraw from Eastern Europe.
Being part of Nato would allow Finland to trigger Article 5, which treats an attack on one member as an attack on all – and brings with it the might of the US military, a powerful deterrent against any aggression.
After agreeing a defence pact with Sweden and Finland - something that would provide some protection from any Russian aggression while they finalise decisions on Nato membership - Boris Johnson said: "We have been forced to discuss how best to fortify our shared defences against the empty conceit of a 21st-century tyrant."
Asked during a press conference if there would be "British boots on the ground" on Finnish territory during a "possible conflict with Russia", he said: "I think the solemn declaration is itself clear.
"And what it says is that in the event of a disaster, or in the event of an attack on either of us, then yes, we will come to each other's assistance, including with military assistance.
"But the nature of that assistance will of course depend upon the request of the other party."
Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said: "Are we safer with this declaration?"
"Yes we are. Of course this means something."
Ms Andersson added: "President Putin thought he could cause division [in the West], but he has achieved the opposite."