Finland state

Finland insists on right to join NATO without Russia

Russia’s saber strikes in Ukraine have reignited the debate in Finland over the Nordic country’s membership in NATO, defying demands from Moscow that seek to limit the expansion of the military alliance in Europe.

President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin both used their New Year’s speeches to stress that Finland retains the option to apply for NATO membership at any time.

“Let it be said once again: Finland’s room for maneuver and freedom of choice also includes the possibility of military alignment and of applying for NATO membership, if we decide for ourselves. Niinisto said.

Marin added in his separate speech that each country has the right to decide its own security policy, stressing: “We have shown that we have learned from the past. We will not give up our room for maneuver.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said last week that Finland’s and Sweden’s accession to NATO “would have serious military and political consequences which would require an adequate response from the Russian side.”

As Russia accumulates around 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s eastern border, Washington, Moscow and NATO member states are expected to meet for talks in early January. US President Joe Biden is also due to hold talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday. Russian President Vladimir Putin has previously refused to rule out military action and warned that he had “all kinds” of options if his demands for “security guarantees” to limit NATO expansion didn’t were not satisfied.

Finland and neighboring Sweden are both militarily unaligned, but enjoy growing cooperation with NATO as well as strong bilateral relations with alliance members such as the United States, Norway and the United Kingdom. -United.

There is no feeling that Finland is about to seek NATO membership, but Russia’s activity on Ukraine’s borders and its list of demands just before Christmas have rekindled the internal debate in Helsinki at a level never seen after the Russian annexation of Crimea.

Niinisto also warned the West that he risked handing over power to Russia if he removed the threat of possible military action. Quoting former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on appeasement of Nazi Germany, the Finnish president said: “Whenever the avoidance of war has been the primary objective of a group of powers, the international system has been at the mercy of its most ruthless member.

Petteri Orpo, leader of the main opposition National Coalition party, a long-time supporter of NATO membership, also said the time had come to discuss whether Finland should apply and which ‘he believed the membership would improve both his security and that of the neighboring region.

“Russia recently suggested that Finland’s and Sweden’s eventual NATO membership would force it to retaliate militarily. Such speech is reprehensible and ultimately says more about Russia’s ultimate goals than those of Finland or Sweden. Finland is not a threat to Russia now or in any other way, ”Orpo said Thursday in an article posted on his party’s website.

Atte Harjanne, active reservist and leader of the Greens parliamentary group, member of the ruling five-party government coalition, said the case for Finland’s membership had been “strengthened” and the country should join immediately .

Leading politicians from the three Baltic states believe that Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO membership is crucial to improving the security situation on Russia’s western border amid concerns about not only Ukraine but also Belarus and its use of migrants to test Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.

The accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO “could make the whole of Northern Europe much more stable and more secure”, noted Marko Mihkelson, Head of Estonia’s Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee.

Finland is one of the few European countries not to have significantly reduced its military strength after the Cold War, as its 1340 km long border with Russia and memories of the Winter War of 1939-40 against the Soviet Union ensured the preservation of security issues. a high priority.

Finland has also maintained close diplomatic and trade ties with Russia, and security experts say Niinisto is perhaps the European leader most respected by his Russian counterpart Putin, with whom he has regular conversations.