Against the background of the Russian military special operation in Ukraine, a discussion about the prospects for the country’s accession to NATO has intensified in Finland: the discussion of this issue has already moved to the level of political parties, and public opinion polls record the readiness of the Finns to join the alliance. Can Finland join NATO and how it threatens Russia – in the material of Gazeta.Ru.
The Finnish government is ready to discuss the state’s accession to NATO, President Sauli Niiniste announced during his visit to the United States. According to him, the situation inside the country has changed, so the authorities are open to discussion on this issue with the parliament.
“For the first time, the majority of people, judging by the polls, are in favor of [joining NATO], so we are open to discussing this with parliament <…> We are trying to determine all the consequences, risks and benefits, to do it effectively and as soon as possible,” explained Niiniste.
From the point of view of the Finnish president, the answer to the question of whether the state should join NATO should be given by the parliament of the republic, where there is already an active discussion on this matter – since the beginning of March, representatives of the country’s political parties have held a series of meetings on this issue.
“The discussion is underway, our parliament is very active in this. And in the end, this decision is made by the parliament <…> We were completely safe, but of course we must take into account what we see now in Europe,” Niiniste emphasized.
At the same time, NATO has already announced its readiness to accept Finland if the country decides to join the alliance. As Secretary General of the organization Jens Stoltenberg noted, with regard to Helsinki and Stockholm, where they are also thinking about joining the bloc, the issue can be resolved as soon as possible.
Should Finland join NATO?
Experts interviewed by Gazeta.Ru assess the possibility of Helsinki’s real accession to the North Atlantic Alliance in different ways. Thus, Timofey Bordachev, program director of the Valdai Club, believes that the probability of such an outcome is equal to the results of public opinion polls.
“This scenario is realistic with a probability equal to statistical sociological studies on the attitude of Finnish society towards this topic – that is, 50/50, according to the latest estimates.
Accordingly, therefore, a discussion on this issue is initiated. It is likely that a decision on NATO will not be made in the country behind the scenes and without a firm reliance on public opinion in either direction. This is not Montenegro, where everything was decided for the people, who took to the streets with protest, and entered,” the expert explained.
At the same time, Ivan Konovalov, president of the Center for Strategic Studies, is sure that there are serious doubts about the likelihood of such a move by Helsinki. According to him, Finland is unlikely to want to give up its neutral status.
“The Finns have always enjoyed their neutral status, having become a buffer between the West and the USSR in the past. In fact, the economic growth of this country is largely due to the fact that the Soviet Union, recognizing its neutral status, actively cooperated with it – much more strongly than with the countries of Western Europe, which Finland used.
Now there are no military-political problems between Russia and Finland, they were all resolved many years ago. Therefore, it is not clear why Helsinki should join NATO.
Perhaps to fit into the already unconvincing picture of the alliance – NATO now looks like the underdog. As a result, this is hardly beneficial for Finland, as it can destroy good economic relations with Moscow, ”the expert added.
At the same time, Konovalov did not rule out that Helsinki’s further steps towards the alliance would largely depend on the decision of Sweden, where there is also a discussion on a possible entry into NATO – “both countries are under serious pressure on this issue from the structures of the alliance.”
What does this mean for Russia
In Moscow, the possible connection of Finland to NATO has been commented more than once. For example, the official representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, pointed out that the Russian side is recording the efforts of the alliance to draw Helsinki and Stockholm into its bloc.
“Obviously, the accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO, which is primarily, as you well understand, a military bloc, would have serious military and political consequences that would require our country to take reciprocal steps,” the diplomat emphasized.
Aleksey Arbatov, head of the Center for International Security at IMEMO RAS, told Gazeta.ru that Finland’s possible entry into the alliance can hardly be called positive for Moscow.
“This will mean that two more NATO high-tech countries will appear on the sea and land borders of Russia (since Sweden may also join the Finns). Their armed forces are now very small, but in Helsinki they are quite effective. Forces can be built up, and foreign military bases for the United States and other NATO countries can be located on the territory of states. For Russia, this will dramatically worsen its strategic situation and its security,” the expert noted.
From Arbatov’s point of view, in addition to security threats, one can expect a general deterioration in relations between Russia and Finland. According to him, the level of interaction between the parties will definitely change.
“During the years of the Cold War, even in its most acute periods, Finland remained a neutral country and did not join any blocs. And now the situation will change dramatically, which will require Russia to take some concrete measures. As a result, this will become an expected, but very sharp deterioration in relations – in the Baltic Sea, all countries around will become NATO members, that is, our [potential] adversaries,” the expert added.