BERLIN — Russia’s military progress in Ukraine appeared to be faltering, a senior NATO official said on Sunday, expressing hope that Kyiv would win the war as Russia’s neighbor Finland announced it wanted to join a Western military alliance.
Top NATO diplomats met in Berlin on Sunday to discuss further support for Ukraine and moves by Finland, Sweden and other countries to join NATO in the face of threats from Russia.
“Russia’s brutal aggression is losing momentum,” NATO Deputy Secretary-General Mircea Giana told reporters. “We know that with the bravery of the Ukrainian people and army, and with our help, Ukraine can win this war.”
Finland’s president and government announced on Sunday that the neutral Nordic country, which borders Russia, intends to apply to join NATO, paving the way for the expansion of the 30-member Western military alliance.
The announcement was made by President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin at a joint press conference at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki.
“This is a historic day. A new era has begun,” Niinisto said.
The Finnish parliament is expected to approve the decision in the coming days, but it is considered a formality.
Then, most likely sometime next week, a formal membership application will be submitted to NATO headquarters in Brussels.
Ukrainian supporters “are united, we are strong and will continue to help Ukraine win this war.”
A key issue discussed in Berlin is expanding NATO beyond its current 30 members.
Sweden has also taken steps to join the alliance, while Georgia’s application is being discussed again, despite dire warnings from Moscow about the consequences if its neighbour becomes part of NATO.
“Finland and Sweden are already NATO’s closest partners,” Geoana said, adding that he hoped the allies would view their application positively.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Germany and other countries made it clear at a dinner Saturday night that they were willing to speed up the national approval process in Finland and Sweden.
“If the two countries decide to join, they can join very quickly,” she said.
Denmark’s foreign minister has dismissed suggestions that objections from Russian President Vladimir Putin could hinder the coalition’s admission of new members.
“Every European country has a fundamental right to choose its own security arrangements,” Jeppe Kofod told reporters.
“We are now seeing a world where the number one enemy of democracy is Putin and the ideas he represents,” he said, adding that NATO would also stand with other countries, such as Georgia, which he said was being “tooled by Russia” ” .
On the sidelines of the meeting, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken met with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitro Kuleba earlier on Sunday to discuss the impact of the war and how to get Ukrainian grain to international markets.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said Blinken “underscored the United States’ enduring commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s unprovoked war.”
NATO members will also discuss security issues outside Europe at their meeting on Sunday, Britain’s top diplomat said – a reference to growing unease in democracies over China’s rise.
“In addition to protecting Euro-Atlantic security, we also need to pay attention to Indo-Pacific security,” said Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.
The meeting follows this week’s gathering of foreign ministers from the major G7 economies on Germany’s Baltic coast. Officials there expressed strong support for Ukraine and warned that a Russian blockade of grain exports from Ukrainian ports could trigger a global food crisis.
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