Finland ‘Very Unlikely’ to Join NATO for Now, ‘Neither US or Russia Can Influence Decision,’ PM Says

© REUTERS / Lehtikuva/Elias LahtinenUS army soldier and Stryker armored vehicle during "Arrow 16" mechanised exercise of the Finnish Army in collaboration with US Army Europe's 2nd Cavalry Regiment's Mechanized Infantry Company in Niinisalo, Finland (File)
US army soldier and Stryker armored vehicle during Arrow 16 mechanised exercise of the Finnish Army in collaboration with US Army Europe's 2nd Cavalry Regiment's Mechanized Infantry Company in Niinisalo, Finland (File) - Sputnik International, 1920, 20.01.2022
While it enjoyed non-aligned status after the end of WWII, Finland has drifted toward NATO since the end of the Cold War, taking part in alliance drills, participating in the NATO Response Force, and allowing the bloc to use its land, airspace and territorial waters. The Western bloc has been lobbying Helsinki toward formal membership.
Finland is “very unlikely” to join NATO in the immediate future, but will support the US and Europe with “extremely tough” sanctions against Russia if Moscow decides to invade Ukraine, Prime Minister Sanna Marin has said.

“Finland makes its own decisions when it comes to foreign policy and security. Nobody can influence us, not the United States, not Russia, not anyone else. We will make our decisions by ourselves as we have been doing so far,” the prime minister said in an interview with Reuters.

NATO membership was not on the cards at the moment, according to Marin, because “we have a very fresh new paper on foreign security policy and we have decided that we have the opportunity, the possibility to become a NATO member state, but we are not applying and we are not discussing of applying. But we have that possibility in the future.”
On Tuesday, US President Joe Biden held his second talks with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto in a month to discuss “the importance of Finland’s close defence partnership with the United States and with NATO” amid the current crisis between Russia and the West over Ukraine.
The US and its allies have claimed that Russia is preparing to “invade” its western neighbour. Moscow has vehemently denied the claims and accused Washington of using trumped-up claims of “Russian aggression” to justify NATO’s eastward creep.
Marin’s remarks to Reuters follow on comments she made during her New Year’s address to the nation, when she said that Finland “retains the option of applying for NATO membership,” and would “uphold this freedom of choice and make sure it remains a reality, as this is part of every country’s right to decide its own security policies.”
In this file photo dated Aug. 29, 2014, NATO naval mine countermeasure vessels berth in Turku, Finland, during the international Northern Coasts 2014 (NOCO14) military exercise - Sputnik International, 1920, 02.01.2022
Finnish PM, President on NATO: Finland Should Keep Options Open, May Join at Will
President Niinisto echoed Marin’s sentiments in his own address, and criticized the Russian security proposals – which ask NATO to halt its eastward expansion, as an outdated notion about “spheres of influence.”
During the Cold War, Finland, which shares a 1,340 km border with Russia, was able to enjoy neutrality, with neither the Western nor the Eastern blocs interfering with its security, economic or political affairs. After the Soviet collapse, the country began a slow drift toward NATO, engaging in joint drills with bloc members, and allowing the alliance to use its territory under a ‘host nation support agreement’ signed in 1994.
Finland’s potential membership in NATO has been debated for decades. This week, polling conducted for the Helsingin Sanomat national newspaper found that 42 percent of Finns were opposed to the prospect of alliance membership, with 28 percent in favour, and 30 percent undecided.
In neighbouring Sweden, recent polling has found that 35 percent of Swedes are in favour of NATO membership, with 33 percent opposed and the rest undecided.
Late last year and again earlier this month, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance already enjoys close cooperation with Helsinki, and that Finland is welcome to join anytime if it so chooses.
A soldier from the Swedish Armed Forces, looks on from top of the Patria XA-360 AMV (Armored Modular Vehicle) at Hagshult Airbase - Sputnik International, 1920, 07.01.2022
Sweden Talks NATO With Finland as Supreme Commander Slams Russian Security Proposals
Last month, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova warned that the accession of either Finland or Sweden into the Western bloc would necessitate an “adequate response” from Moscow. Accusing NATO of seeking to “draw the two countries into the orbit of its interests and opportunistic policies,” Zakharova stressed that Russia sees the countries’ non-alignment as an important factor for ensuring stability in northern Europe, with the choice of a national defence strategy remaining in the hands of each state.
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