Finland prepares for historic decision on NATO

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Finland is entering the decisive phase this week on its possible candidacy for NATO, with a final choice expected by the end of June.

Unthinkable two months before the invasion of Ukraine, now possible and even probable: Finland is entering the decisive phase this week on its possible candidacy for NATO, with a final choice expected by the end of June .

A “white paper” on the security of the country must be published – probably Thursday – by the government of the Nordic country, to draw the consequences of the new face of the Russian neighbor.

An application probably sent before June

Commissioned in early March, the strategic review promises to be the starting point for a referral to Parliament and a national debate lasting several weeks – at a time when the question also arises in similar terms for neighboring Sweden.

We will have very careful discussions but we will not take more time than necessary said Prime Minister Sanna Marin on Friday. ” I think we will have finished our discussion before the end of June “said the young social democrat leader.

I think the application will be forwarded sometime in May “, to allow a decision at the NATO summit scheduled for Madrid at the end of June, said former Prime Minister Alexander Stubb, in favor of membership.

Intense consultations

Finland has increased consultations in recent weeks with almost all of NATO’s 30 members.

With its Swedish neighbor, the country obtained clear assurances from Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg that the door was open to it, and gleaned many supports, from the United States to Germany via France or the United Kingdom.

The shift in public opinion has been dramatic: polls now suggest an all-time high of 60% of Finns in favor of membership — double that of pre-war Ukraine. The share of hostile people has dropped to around 20%.

Although not everyone has yet made their position known, a clear majority is also emerging in favor of NATO among the deputies in Parliament. Vladimir Putin, who had waved the red rag of NATO enlargement to justify the invasion of Ukraine, therefore finds himself with a possible new additional border of 1,340 kilometers with the Western military alliance.

“Serious consequences”

Moscow regularly threatens Helsinki and Stockholm with ” serious political and military consequences in the event of membership, a warning repeated in recent weeks.

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö acknowledged at the end of March that a NATO candidacy could provoke “impetuous” responses from Russia – government websites were targeted by cyberattacks on Friday.

The unanimity of the members required to join NATO. If the support of Turkey seems acquired according to Helsinki, remains a question mark with Hungary of Viktor Orban.

According to Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto, NATO considers that it would take between four to twelve months to finalize membership – the procedure had taken 13 for North Macedonia, the last entry in March 2020.

On paper, Finland (5.5 million inhabitants) is a dream candidate, with a record number of reservists, reflecting continued vigilance vis-à-vis its Russian neighbour.

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