Finland appears closer to joining NATO despite Russia’s threat of military consequences if it does
- Finland appears to be closer to joining NATO after Russia invaded Ukraine.
- A survey showed a majority there want membership, and the prime minister said a decision should be soon.
- Russia previously warned of “serious military and political consequences” if Finland tries to join.
Finland appears to be getting closer to joining the NATO military alliance despite Russia’s threat of military consequences if it becomes a member.
The country’s politicians and NATO itself have both pointed to the possibility of Finland joining soon, and a recent survey showed a majority of the country in support of membership in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Sanna Marin, Finland’s prime minister, said on Saturday the decision on whether or not to join should happen “this spring,” the Financial Times reported.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on March 31 that while the decision to join the bloc was one for Finland to make, he expected that NATO would allow the country to join quickly.
“If they apply, I expect that they will be very welcomed and that we’ll find a way to quickly agree the accession protocol and follow up on a membership of Finland,” he said.
Finland’s National Coalition party, the government’s main opposition, also supports NATO membership.
Petteri Orpo, the party’s leader, said, according to the FT: “In order to improve our security and guarantee our independence, we should join NATO. We still have a powerful and aggressive neighbor.”
Finland shares a long border with Russia.
Russia has threatened Finland should it decide to pursue membership.
In March, a Russian foreign ministry official warned of “serious military and political consequences” if Finland or Sweden, Finland’s neighbor, tried to join.
Russian President Vladimir Putin used the possibility of NATO expanding further eastward as a reason for his invasion of Ukraine. He framed Russia’s invasion as an act of self-defense against the alliance’s growth.
There also appears to be increased public support in Finland for joining the alliance.
A survey conducted by the Finnish Business and Policy Forum Eva think tank in March, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, found that 60% of people supported Finland joining NATO — a massive jump from previous years.
Joining NATO could also bring its own security risks for Finland, particularly if Russia sees it as an act of aggression.
Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said last month that applying for NATO membership would come with the “major risk” of escalation in Europe.
Finland was once part of the Russian Empire. After it gained independence, it was invaded by the Soviet Union in 1939, but it successfully fought back.