Finland, wary of Russia, will once again consider NATO membership

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.

Why it’s on our radar: Information in this article helps satisfy Priority Intelligence Requirement 1: What are the latest indicators of a NATO-Russia conflict?  Each week in our Strategic Intelligence Summary, we gauge the likelihood and scope of conflict with Russia, China, North Korea, and in the Middle East, and track the latest developments in each region.  Subscribe here to receive our premium intelligence products prepared by Intelligence and special operations veterans.

Jon E. Dougherty is a political, foreign policy and national security analyst and reporter with nearly 30 years of experience in both fields. A U.S. Army veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, he holds BA in Political Science from Ashford University and an MA in National Security Studies/Intelligence Analysis from American Military University.

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