Speaking in the shadow of Moscow, Finland’s top diplomat on Thursday said its NATO membership "would bring added value" to the alliance, just after pressing to start procedures as soon as possible.
"Finland's NATO accession would strengthen the security and stability of the Baltic Sea region and Northern Europe," Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee.
“We are convinced that Finland would bring added value to NATO. Our wartime strength of the defense forces is 280,000 troops, and the trained reserve is 900,000 men and women,” he added.
Saying that Russia's war on Ukraine has "altered the European and Finnish security environment," Haavisto added that his country is "not facing an immediate military threat" but maintains that “national approval to maneuver and freedom of choice remain integral parts of finance, foreign security, and defense policy" for Finland.
Citing the Finnish president and prime minister's joint announcement Thursday that the country will seek NATO membership "without delay," Haavisto said: "This means that we are now fast approaching the point of national decision-making."
"Strengthening our ability to respond to new and emerging threats is an essential goal," he added.
Haavisto also said Finland is ready to closely cooperate with its neighbor Sweden in gaining NATO membership and on security matters, explaining that the two countries have "a lot of common exercises, common military planning."
Noting that NATO membership has been an option for Finland for some two decades, he added that public support was very low until Russia launched its war on Ukraine.