Finland's leaders announced Thursday their intention for the country to join NATO "without delay," a move that would bolster the Western military alliance's strength in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and redraw Europe's security map. The Nordic nation, which shares an 810-mile border with Russia, is expected to be given rapid accession to join the alliance and neighboring Sweden looks set to follow with its own bid in the coming days. President Sauli Niinistö and Prime Minister Sanna Marin announced their support for the country’s bid to join NATO in a joint statement early Thursday. “NATO membership would strengthen Finland’s security. As a member of NATO, Finland would strengthen the entire defense alliance,” Niinistö and Marin said. “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.” Niinistö said on Twitter he spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy after the announcement to inform him of Finland's intention to join. Finland has traditionally been militarily neutral and enjoyed good relations with Moscow — but the war in Ukraine has led the country to rethink its security and self-determinism. The move is a sign of European unity and opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin's aggression, with Western countries acting to counter fears that the Kremlin wants to reestablish Russian power over its neighbors beyond Ukraine. The end to Kyiv's long-standing desire to join NATO and the removal of Western troops in the region were central to Putin's pre-war demands, but Finland joining would double Russia's border with the Transatlantic alliance. Asked on Wednesday if Finland would provoke Russia by joining NATO, Niinistö said Putin would be to blame. “My response would be that you caused this. Look at the mirror,” he said. Finnish President Sauli Niinisto has been seen as one of Europe's few figures able to act as an interlocutor with Putin. Mikhail Klimentyev / AP file Should Finland become a full NATO member, it would be bound by Article 5, under which all members, including the United States, come to the defense of any other member that is attacked. Sweden, influenced by the eagerness and speed of its Finnish neighbors, is also widely expected to signal . . . read the full article here.