How Close Is Finland To Join NATO? – Finland is one of six European Union nations that is not a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. For decades, the country’s interest in joining the Western military alliance has been slim, to say the least, but as the geopolitical situation in Europe has changed over the years, the chances of Finland – a neighbor to Russia – joining NATO has increased.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto responded to rumors that the country would join NATO by insisting that Finland may choose to break with its decades-old position on military neutrality.
“Finland’s room to maneuver and freedom of choice also includes the possibility of military alignment and of applying for NATO membership, should we ourselves so decide,” Niinisto said.
Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin also said this week that maintaining the status quo now comes with consequences.
“Both joining and not joining are choices that have consequences,” Marin said. “We need to assess both the short-term and long-term effects. At the same time, we must keep in mind our goal; ensuring the security of Finland and Finns in all situations.”
Not only are Finland’s political leaders discussing the possibility since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, but public opinion is also leaning towards joining. In mid-March, one survey found that 62% of Finnish adults would prefer the country to join NATO.
Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto also told reporters in Brussels on Thursday that the country would clarify the next steps towards a possible decision to join the military alliance.
Why Russia Objects
Russia has long objected to both Sweden and Finland joining NATO. They are two of six European Union countries that have not yet joined the Western military alliance, and for a long time, there has been little in the way of interest in the countries joining.
That all changed dramatically after Russia launched its offensive in Ukraine, though the two nations’ decision to join the European Union in 1995 also warmed citizens to the possibility of joining the alliance.
Russia’s opposition to Finland joining NATO is driven largely by the fact that the country borders Russia, and such a decision would put an adversary right on Russia’s doorstep. Not only does NATO membership mean that any conflict between Russia and Finland becomes a conflict between Russia and much of the Western world, but Finland also has a large and powerful armed forces thanks in part to the fact that the country requires all adolescent males to go through military training once they reach adulthood.
This week, Russian legislator Vladimir Dzhabarov warned that Finland would face serious repercussions should it join the Western military alliance, and even said that it would make the country a fair “target” for Russia and ensure the “destruction of their country.”
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.