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Finnish MPs debate Nato membership in marathon session

As lawmakers discussed military alliance matters, Sweden confirmed it was officially planning to join Nato and Vladimir Putin said that Finland's joining Nato was not a threat to Russia.

Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) addresses Parliament on Monday 16 May, 2022. Image: Silja Viitala / Yle

Finnish Members of Parliament are scheduled to discuss the country's potential Nato membership late into Monday night.

By around 4:20pm on Monday, after more than 100 MPs had made statements about the issue during a session that started in the morning, there were still around 95 additional lawmakers waiting for their turn to speak.

Given the situation, the session — which has not been limited in duration — will continue until 2am Tuesday and following a break, resume at 8am. A formal vote on the Nato plans is expected to take place on Tuesday.

While many MPs have spoken, there are still a handful who have not publicly revealed their stances about the matter.

No option

The Left Alliance, a party which has been least eager to join the military alliance, does support the move, according to the party's MP Aino-Kaisa Pekonen.

"In this situation, I don't see any other available option to ensure the security of Finland and the Finns," she said.

"As a non-aligned country, Finland would hardly remain an outsider in a conflict between nato and Russia. Perhaps it is better to belong to Nato's inner circle than to be caught between two sides," Pekonen said.

Meanwhile, as support for joining Nato seems to be very clear among lawmakers, some MPs have already started focusing on Finland's future role in the alliance.

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In particular, members of the Left Alliance have said that Finland should not host nuclear weapons or permanent Nato bases.

However, defence minister Antti Kaikkonen (Cen) pointed out that the issue of nuclear weapons has not been included in the alliance's membership agreements with any country, including Norway,

Kaikkonen said that those issues can be outlined separately, if needed.

"Even without separate declarations, I can say that we are not going to request for nuclear weapons to be put on Finnish soil, nor is anyone pushing [such plans]," Kaikkonen said.

Putin: Finland joining Nato not a threat

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday that Finland's and Sweden's potential Nato membership was not a threat to Russia but that expansion of military infrastructure into those regions could "provoke our response."

"What that [response] will be - we will see what threats are created for us," Putin said at the Grand Kremlin Palace, according to Reuters. "Problems are being created for no reason at all. We shall react accordingly."

On Monday afternoon, Sweden announced that it was also applying for Nato membership.

Sweden's Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said the government had formally decided to apply for Nato membership,

She said that the country plans to hand in its application on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, at the same time Finland applies.

Andersson said Sweden's accession to becoming full members should not take longer than a year.

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) made their official Nato announcement on Sunday.