A new member to join NATO
Finland’s prime minister, alarmed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, said on Wednesday that the Nordic country would decide whether to ask for NATO membership “within weeks,” despite the risk of offending Moscow.
After the Ukraine crisis triggered a remarkable U-turn in public and political opinion in Finland and neighbouring Sweden over the long-held policy of military non-alignment, Helsinki’s parliament will launch a discussion over joining the Western alliance next week.
Attempting to join NATO would almost definitely be viewed as a provocation by Moscow, which has long resented NATO’s expansion on its borders.
Prime Minister Sanna Marin, on the other hand, stated that Finland would make a swift decision on whether or not to apply for membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
“I believe it will happen quickly. Not within months, but within weeks, Marin had made the remarks during a news conference in Stockholm with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson.
Following Russia‘s invasion on February 24, Sweden is also considering joining NATO.
Guarantees: According to the foreign ministry, Finnish government-commissioned research released Wednesday assessed the “fundamentally changed” security environment and will be debated in parliament.
Despite being a NATO partner, the report did not make any suggestions. Still, it did emphasize, as did Marin in her statement, that Finland has no security assurances without NATO participation.
There is no other way to obtain security guarantees than through NATO deterrence and mutual defence, as promised in NATO Article 5, prime minister of Finland Sana Marin added. It has also referred to an assault on one member being considered an attack on all NATO members.
The ‘deterrence effect’ on the alliance of Finland’s defence will be ‘significantly larger’ according to the assessment, which also included requirements for Finland to assist other members.
Next Wednesday is the first day of the parliamentary debate on membership.
Alexander Stubb, former Prime Minister of Finland and longtime supporter of NATO believes that applying for accession is “a foregone conclusion.”
Finland and Russia have a long history together. Over 150 years of Russian control, it gained independence in 1917.
During the second world war, its massively outmanned army held off a Soviet assault before ceding numerous border areas to Moscow as part of a peace treaty.
Finland remained neutral during the Cold War in exchange for pledges from Moscow that it would not invade.
A change of heart – Just a few months ago, such a shift of opinion on NATO would have been inconceivable.
Prime Minister Sana Marin had preliminarily stated that members would be”extremely doubtful” during her term.
However, after two decades of public support for membership remained stable at 20 to 30 percent, the war prompted a spike in support to over 60%.
According to public declarations compiled by the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, half of Finland’s 200 MPs currently support membership, with only 12 voting against it.
Others said they’ll make a decision after further in-depth discussions.
MP’s would hear from a number of security specialists in the coming weeks, the government stated, in the hopes of reaching a parliamentary consensus.
Finland has received public assurances from NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg that the alliance’s door is still open, as well as support from a number of allies.
‘It’s like switching religions’ – Unlike Finland, Sweden does not have a territorial border with Russia, and the two countries have not been at war in almost 200 years.
Nonetheless, pro-NATO attitude is growing among Swedes, who have recognized that they may end up in the same situation as Ukraine, with a lot of sympathies, but no military help,” according to Robert Dalsjo, research director at the Swedish Defence Research Agency.
Many observers believe Sweden and Finland will make the same decision on whether to join, although their leaders have stated that they may come to different conclusions.
The ruling party of Sweden said this week that it is reconsidering its long-held opposition to NATO membership.
“Changing the thinking of the Social Democrats in Sweden (on NATO) is like changing religion,” ex-PM Stubb told AFP.
“And I’m not referring to Protestants and Catholics; I’m referring to Christians and Muslims.”
Warning about Finland, Sweden NATO membership
Vladimir Putin will not stop trying to expand Russia after annexing Crimea and massing troops on the Ukrainian border, according to one of his closest former aides, until he has “conquered” Belarus, the Baltic nations, and Finland.
Mr. Putin wants to restore “historical justice” by returning to the days of the last Tsar, Nicholas II, and the Soviet Union under Stalin, according to Andrej Illarionov, the President’s principal economic adviser from 2000 to 2005.
Mr. Illarionov said in an interview with the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet that Russia will argue that Finland’s independence in 1917 was an act of “treason against national interests.”
“Putin’s attitude is that he preserves what belongs to him and his predecessors,” Mr. Illarionov said.
“President Vladimir Putin claims control of parts of Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltic States, and Finland.
“From what they say, the West’s leaders appear to have completely forgotten that there are some leaders in the globe who wish to invade other countries,” he continued.
In recent years, Mr. Illarionov has assisted in the formulation of a number of economic policies for Russia as well as served as Mr. Putin’s personal envoy at a number of G8 summits. In Washington, he now works as a senior fellow at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity.
Because Finland is not a NATO member, any Russian invasion would not be deemed a NATO attack. In recent weeks, the Finnish air force has intensified surveillance operations over the Baltic Sea, according to its commander.
As an autonomous Grand Duchy, the Scandinavian nation was a member of the Russian empire for 108 years. When asked if Mr. Putin constituted an urgent threat to the unity of the EU, Mr. Illarionov replied: “It is not on Putin’s agenda today or tomorrow,” the source said.
“However, unless Putin is detained, the topic will be brought up sooner or later.” Putin has repeatedly said that the Bolsheviks and Communists have made severe mistakes. He could easily argue that by granting Finland independence in 1917, the Bolsheviks committed treason against Russian national interests.”
In terms of what might be done to halt Russian expansion, Mr. Illarionov believes sanctions have aided rather than hampered Mr. Putin because they “confirm his perspective of the world” – and that of “Kremlin propaganda.”
“We have to resist all existing measures,” he said. “I’m not a bloodthirsty guy, but there are times when military might is the only option to stop an opponent.” The only way to respond to outright hostility is to show that you’re ready to stand up for yourself as a team.”
Edited by Prakriti Arora