Following leaders signing and handing over accession paperwork, Finland officially joined Nato at a brief ceremony at the defence alliance's headquarters in Brussels on Tuesday, at around 4pm, Finnish time.
Finnish President Sauli Niinistö made a brief speech at the ceremony, noting that Finland was starting a new chapter in its history.
"Finland has today become a member of the defence alliance Nato. The era of military non-alignment in our history has come to an end. A new era begins," Niinistö said, adding that joining the alliance was a two-way street, as Nato will provide Finland security but also vice-versa.
The Finnish president also indirectly referred to foreign leaders that have been against Finland joining the alliance, like Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"Finland’s membership is not targeted against anyone. Nor does it change the foundations or objectives of Finland’s foreign and security policy. Finland is a stable and predictable Nordic country that seeks peaceful resolution of disputes. The principles and values that are important to Finland will continue to guide our foreign policy also in the future," he said.
Niinistö spoke outside Nato's headquarters, as the Finnish flag was being raised for the first time, alongside the flags of the alliance's other 30 member states.
Niinistö closed his statement by noting that Finland applied to join Nato alongside Sweden. However, ratification of Finland's Nordic neighbour has not gone smoothly, as there continues to be pushback about ratifying Sweden's application from Hungary and Turkey.
"Finland applied to join Nato together with Sweden. Finland’s membership is not complete without that of Sweden. The persistent efforts for a rapid Swedish membership continue. Similarly, close cooperation continues to build common security and defence across the Nordic region," Niinistö said.
Niinistö: "Russia will be a threat for a long time"
After the ceremony, President Niinistö told reporters at a press conference that Finland should pay attention to Nato regarding all aspects of security — including issues about terrorism, peacekeeping as well as Russia.
"Russia will certainly be a threat for a long time," Niinistö said, adding that the core obligation of Finland's Nato membership is to take care of its own defence.
Despite the talk of historic moments on Tuesday, Niinistö also suggested that joining the alliance is not a major shift for Finland, but the end result of a consistent process.
"Our political alliance has been clear to everyone for a long time," he said, referring to Finland having formal relations with Nato since 1994, when it joined the Partnership for Peace programme. Finland has also been a member of the EU since 1995.
Defence minister: Fast accession
Joining Niinistö on the historic day were Finnish defence minister Antti Kaikkonen (Cen) as well as foreign affairs minister Pekka Haavisto (Green).
"This is a big, important day," Kaikkonen told Yle. "We can be very happy that Finland is now a member of Nato."
The defence minister noted that Finland's accession to the defence alliance was record-fast, despite Turkey and Hungary's numerous delays in ratification. Kaikkonen said no other country had become a member of Nato as quickly as Finland.
"I was mentally prepared that there could be some setbacks," Kaikkonen explained, adding that Finland now needs to help Sweden get into the alliance as quickly as possible.
"We need to speak on behalf of our neighbour and explain just how important [Sweden's Nato membership] is for security in Northern Europe," Kaikkonen said.
After Finland officially became a member of Nato, Finnish foreign minister Haavisto announced Finland's first act as an alliance member.
"Since we are now a member of Nato, we have a very important task. The task is to give to you for the deposit our ratification of Swedish membership. This is our first act as a member state," Haavisto said.
Edited at 18:30 to add Niinistö's post-ceremony press conference statements and Haavisto's comments.
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