Finland’s Leaders Urge NATO Membership ‘Without Delay’

BRUSSELS — Finland’s prime minister and president announced their support on Thursday for the nation to apply to join NATO.

President Sauli Niinisto, who is mostly responsible for Finland’s foreign policy, has helped orchestrate Finland’s move away from a long history of military nonalignment, prompted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.

“Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay,” they said. “We hope that the national steps still needed to make this decision will be taken rapidly within the next few days.”

The announcement had been widely expected. Public opinion in Finland has shifted significantly in favor of joining NATO, from some 20 percent in favor six months ago to nearly 80 percent now, especially if Sweden, Finland’s strategic partner and also militarily nonaligned, also joins.

The debate in Sweden is less advanced than in Finland, but Sweden, too, is moving toward applying to join NATO in tandem with Finland, perhaps as early as next week.

In their statement, Mr. Niinisto and Sanna Marin, the prime minister, said that they agreed that “NATO membership would strengthen Finland’s security.”

They added that “as a member of NATO, Finland would strengthen the entire defense alliance.”

The political parties in Parliament will now finalize their own opinions, with a parliamentary debate and vote expected on Monday.