In yet another major blow for Russian President Vladimir Putin, Finland's president and prime minister have now said that their country intends to apply for NATO membership.
In a joint statement released Thursday, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said that they believe NATO membership is essential to ensuring their nation's security in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
"As a member of NATO, Finland would strengthen the entire defense alliance," they wrote. "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, which shares an 830-mile land border with Russia, has traditionally stayed away from NATO membership in the interest of maintaining a diplomatic balance between Russia and other Western European nations.
Financial Times Moscow bureau chief Max Seddon comments that the decision by Finland to apply for NATO membership now can only be seen as "yet more blowback from Moscow’s war in Ukraine," which has also resulted in an unprecedented number of crippling sanctions that internal Kremlin forecasts show could led to a 12 percent contraction of gross domestic product this year alone.
Now that Finland is applying for NATO membership, the next question will be whether Sweden, which has also traditionally tried to remain militarily neutral between Russia and Western Europe, will follow suit.