The Finnish government is said to be considering joining NATO as Russia after decades of balancing relations between the military alliance and its well-armed neighbor along its eastern border.
“This country deserves an open debate when it comes to foreign and security policy,” said Hannu Himanen, Finland’s ambassador to Russia until 2016.
He spent four years in Russia, leaving with the opinion that Helsinki should stop worrying about irking Moscow and instead focus more on its own security by joining NATO.
In a newly published book, “West or East — Finland and the return of geopolitics,”he’s also critical of Finnish leaders, who he says avoided a frank public debate on foreign policy for too long — arguments that are stirring up controversy ahead of a presidential election in January.
There are signs that Finns may be ready for this debate.
“Any discussion in Finland about foreign policy will have to address NATO. If we don’t discuss now then we can’t be prepared in the future,” said Nils Torvalds of the Swedish People’s party, who is the only clearly pro-NATO candidate currently running for president.
Finland’s neighbors have increasingly warned that their region may be the next flashpoint with Russia, noting that repeated Baltic and Nordic airspace incursions by Russians jets have only added to the unease.
Analyst comment: There isn’t much Finland could do except blunt a full-on Russian invasion, so barring NATO membership, the country would be left to its own devices. That is obviously making more Finns uncomfortable.
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