Finland debates joining Nato membership

EPA-EFE/MAURI RATILAINEN

Jens Stoltenberg , NATO Secretary General, speaks at the opening of the European Center of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats (Hybrid CoE) in Helsinki, Finland, 02 October 2017

Finland debates joining Nato membership


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Finland’s current Nato partnership status would be upgraded to full-fledged membership if one Finnish presidential candidate has his way.

Finnish European parliamentarian Nils Torvalds, who is running for president as the candidate of the Swedish People’s Party, said it’s time for his country to get past the days where Russia has a say in Finland’s defence decisions.

However, polls suggest the majority of 5.5m Finns do not want to join Nato. As for neighbouring Russia, the Kremlin’s new ambassador in Helsinki, Pavel Kuznetsov, issued a dutiful reminder in his first interview since assuming the post early this fall. He told the daily tabloid Ilta-Sanomat that “everyone understands that the entry of Nato’s military infrastructure closer to our borders forces us to take appropriate responses”.

According to Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international broadcaster, Russia’s veiled warning is doing little to sway Finland’s politicians.

According to Jarmo Makela, a longtime foreign-affairs commentator who writes for Finland’s largest newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, a clear majority of his generation and older is sure that Russia will not attack if Finland does not provoke it.

“Seeking membership is considered to be such a provocation and Russia is actively now strengthening such a point of view [inside Finland],” Makela told DW.

Last year, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto became the first Finnish head of state to ever visit alliance headquarters. Niinisto gets some criticism for not expressing strong views either way on Nato membership, but it’s clear he leans toward maintaining non-aligned status.

“If there is a war in the Baltics [between Nato and Russia], it would be a third world war automatically,” Niinisto asserted. “And due to that, it never will come. Everyone knows they would all be gone.”

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