Russian aggression in Ukraine has pushed the Finnish public closer than ever to NATO.
Finnish political parties will gather on Tuesday to discuss Russia’s attack on Ukraine and Finland’s role in Europe’s new power balance. Finland’s potential NATO membership will also be on the table, Prime Minister Sanna Marin told reporters Monday.
The mood in Helsinki is tense: Finland has Europe’s longest border with Russia at over 1,300 kilometers, but is not a part of the military alliance. The country is a close ally of NATO, but there has been little appetite to join the club — until now.
“It is very understandable that many Finns have changed or are changing their minds after Russia started waging war on Ukraine,” Marin said.
Finns are evaluating “what is the line that Russia has crossed, and what is the line that Russia will not cross … And if Russia does cross some line, do we face it alone or together with others,” Marin said. She did not comment on her personal position on NATO.
A survey by the Finnish broadcasting company Yle found that 53 percent of Finns support their country joining NATO. This figure goes up to 66 percent if neighboring Sweden were also to join NATO. This marks a drastic shift in public attitudes — in the previous poll in 2017, only 19 percent of Finns supported NATO membership.
A citizens’ initiative to hold a referendum on whether Finland should join NATO gathered the required 50,000 signatures in less than a week, which forces parliament to debate it.
In a move premier Marin called “historic,” Finland announced it is offering Ukraine weapons. “Finland staunchly supports Ukrainian independence and sovereignty. Finland will offer weapons to Ukraine and the aid will be delivered quickly. This decision will not endanger national defense,” Marin said.