The debate over Finland’s NATO membership comes as neighboring Russia threatens the country with “military and political consequences” if it joins the military alliance.
Finnish lawmakers will discuss their country’s ability to join NATO on Tuesday after a poll showed a historic change in attitudes in the traditionally non-aligned country after Putin waged war with Ukraine.
“I fully understand that many Finns’ views on NATO membership have changed or are changing as Russia launches military action against Ukraine. This is understandable, “said Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin.
Prime Minister Sanna Marin said on Monday night that the planned debate in parliament the next day would cover the situation in Ukraine and was not intended to be “a broader discussion of Finland’s policy on military unification or non-alignment”.
Finland will discuss joining NATO today after a petition calling for a referendum reached 50,000 signatories in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia has threatened both Sweden and Finland, Moscow’s Arctic neighbors, with “military consequences” if they join NATO. Both sides have rejected any Russian interference in their foreign security policy
She said Monday night that the planned debate in parliament the next day would cover the situation in Ukraine and was not intended to be “a broader discussion of Finland’s policy on military unification or non-alignment”.
But she added that as a civil petition calling for a parliamentary debate for a referendum had reached the 50,000 signatories needed to provoke a debate in parliament, “it makes sense to hear the parties’ views on resolving the issue.”
“From this point of view, the issue will be included in tomorrow’s parliamentary debate,” Marin said.
The petition, calling for a referendum on membership, was launched last Monday and reached the target of 50,000 by the end of the week.
Marin said the change in Finland’s view of joining NATO was influenced by Russia’s movements in Ukraine.
She told the Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat: “The question is, if Russia crosses the border, are we alone or with others.”
Finland shares a long land border with Russia, and the two countries waged a brief but bloody war for it between 1939 and 1940, in which Finland inflicted heavy losses on Soviet forces.
Russia has threatened both Sweden and Finland, Moscow’s Arctic neighbors, with “military consequences” if they join NATO. Both sides have rejected any Russian interference in their foreign security policy.
People pass a damaged vehicle and an armored car at a checkpoint in Brovary, outside Kyiv, Ukraine, on Tuesday
Destroyed Ukrainian infantry fighting vehicle seen next to spent missile shell in Kharkov, eastern Ukraine, which was attacked by “cluster” ammunition on Monday
The debate comes after a poll released Monday by public broadcaster Yle, which shows that most Finns now support joining NATO, according to a poll released Monday, a historic change in attitudes and a big change from just a few months ago.
According to a poll commissioned by public broadcaster Yle, 53 percent of Finns support their country’s accession to the military alliance, 28 percent oppose it and 19 percent are unsure.
“A completely historic and exceptional result,” said Charlie Salonius-Pasternak, a senior fellow at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs. The change is dramatic.
The survey surveyed 1,382 respondents between the ages of 18 and 80 between Feb. 23 and 25, Yle said.
In contrast, a January poll published by the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper showed only 28 percent for and 42 percent against NATO membership.
“The only significant thing that has changed is that Russia has attacked a non-NATO neighbor,” Saloniy-Pasternak said.
Although the results of the latest poll may be the result of the initial shock of the Russian invasion, the researcher said he believes support is likely to remain higher.
When Yle last commissioned such a poll in 2017, support for NATO membership was 34 percent.
A man visibly upset while sitting in a car damaged by shelling in Brovary, near Kyiv, Ukraine, on Tuesday
Finland has a common border with Russia, 830 miles long. Although neither she nor neighboring Sweden are members of NATO, both countries are partners in the Western military alliance.
Faced with Moscow’s demands that NATO not expand eastward, Helsinki and Stockholm have rejected any Russian interference in their security policy.
Both sides have received assurances from NATO that the door remains open for them, although the Social Democrats in power in both countries have no plans to join.
In another response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Alko, a state-owned distributor of alcohol in Finland, removed vodka and other Russian products from the shelves on Monday.
“The situation in Ukraine is shocking and we have taken it seriously,” said spokesman Anu Koskinen, announcing the suspension of sales both in stores and online.
Members of Ukraine’s civil defense unit hand over new assault rifles on the opposite side of an explosive bridge on Kyiv’s northern front on Tuesday
The measure will affect about 30 Russian products – most of them vodka – from its total stock of 11,000 items.
In neighboring Sweden, the state-owned alcohol monopoly Systembolaget has also announced it will stop selling Russian products.
Last week, Russia threatened its close Arctic neighbors, Sweden and Finland, with “military consequences” if it joined NATO.
Sweden and Finland are the two countries closest to Russia in the Arctic Circle.
“Finland and Sweden must not base their security on undermining the security of other countries, and their accession to NATO could have disastrous consequences and face some military and political consequences,” Russian Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said during briefing.
The foreign ministry later repeated the threat on Twitter.
“We consider the Finnish government’s commitment to a military non-alignment policy as an important factor in ensuring security and stability in Northern Europe,” the ministry said. “Finland’s accession to NATO would have serious military and political consequences.”
It is widely believed that Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine after Western nations discussed the idea of joining NATO on fears that it could end up with a US military presence on its doorstep.
Such a move by Sweden or Finland could potentially provoke such anger.
Ukrainian leaders want to join NATO, but Russia is strongly opposed to the move.
Western countries have increased arms supplies to Ukraine to help its forces defend themselves, but have so far ruled out sending troops.
However, the country has stepped up its ties with the West by applying to join the European Union – a largely symbolic move so far, but it will not like Putin, who has already been outraged by Ukraine’s desire to join NATO. .
Messages aimed at advancing Russian troops have surfaced on billboards, bus stops and electronic road signs across the capital. Some used swear words to encourage Russians to leave. Others appealed to their humanity.