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Finland completes white paper to launch NATO talks

Finland is about to start a process that should lead to a request from Russia’s northern neighbor to join the NATO defense alliance.

The government, together with President Sauli Niinisto, on Tuesday finalized a white paper on changes to the country’s security environment following its former imperial master’s attack on Ukraine. The report will be sent to parliament and made public when it is officially approved by the government in a session due to take place on Wednesday.

Although no proposal for membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is included, the government is ready to table an addendum on such a proposal at a later date if the required support for it emerges in Parliament, said Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto. More than half of voting lawmakers now support joining the alliance, according to an unofficial tally from Finland’s largest newspaper Helsingin Sanomat.

Finland has seen a tectonic shift in attitudes towards NATO membership following the invasion of Ukraine, with the latest polls showing a majority of Finns now support it. With the white paper meant to serve as a vehicle for parliament to debate the issue, a potential membership application could be tabled before the 30-member bloc meets for a summit in Madrid on June 29-30.

The Nordic nation of 5.5million, which has the European Union’s longest border with Russia, has been warned by its eastern neighbor against joining NATO, raising concerns over possible aggression from Moscow. On Friday, Finland reported an attack on government websites and an alleged violation of airspace by Russian planes.

The changing security landscape and public opinion also see ruling parties moving towards support for NATO membership. Over the weekend, Finland’s Center Party, part of a five-party cabinet led by Social Democrat Prime Minister Sanna Marin, opened the door to a possible membership bid.

In a further sign of changing views on security issues, Finns also gave a gloomy assessment of their eastern neighbour, with 84% now seeing Russia as a significant military threat.

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