The Finnish government has begun debating whether to join NATO, despite threats and warnings from Moscow.
The Nordic country of 5.5 million shares a lengthy border with Russia — 1,340 km, or about 832 miles — so consequently, if Finland were to join the alliance that would mean a NATO country right on Russia’s doorstep, a move that President Vladimir Putin very likely would not abide.
Up to this point most Fins have not supported NATO membership, always being nudged to vote no by Moscow.
The Kremlin’s new ambassador in Helsinki, Pavel Kuznetsov, issued a dutiful reminder in his first interview since assuming the post early this fall. Speaking in the daily tabloid Ilta-Sanomat over the weekend, Kuznetsov lamented the impression that countries need to “fear Russia.” At the same time, the ambassador explained, “everyone understands that the entry of NATO’s military infrastructure closer to our borders forces us to take appropriate responses.”
Other Finnish politicians have said it is time the country got past allowing Russia to make the country’s defense decisions. One of them is Finnish European parliamentarian Nils Torvalds, who is running for president as the candidate of the Swedish People’s Party.
He points out that Finland has been participating in the NATO “Partnership for Peace” program initiated in the 1990s during the Clinton administration. But clearly full-fledged NATO membership would mean something more to Moscow, given the alliance’s requirement that all NATO nations go to the defense of any NATO member who is attacked.
If Finland joins, would Putin test that agreement?
We may not find out. Finnish public opinion shows the population is comfortable with that partnership trade-off, which does not come with the mutual defense guarantee. Recent nationwide polling showed that 21 percent of Finns support joining NATO, while 51 percent are opposed.
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