Over 40% of Finns Would Support NATO Accession, With Both 'Yes' and 'No' Sides Citing Russia
05:26 GMT 18.02.2022 (Updated: 05:33 GMT 18.02.2022)
© Sputnik / Alexei DanichevFinland. Helsinki. Monument to Emperor Alexander II on the Cathedral square.
© Sputnik / Alexei Danichev/
The debate about NATO accession in historically non-aligned Finland has been fuelled by both Prime Minister Sanna Marin and President Sauli Niinistö emphasising in their respective New Year's messages that it was Finland's right to apply for NATO membership when it pleases.
Wholly 43 percent of the Finnish public would support NATO membership, if the country's political leadership declared it was in the best interests of the country, a survey has revealed.
In a poll commissioned by the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, more than a quarter (27 percent) of the respondents said they would oppose it and another 30 percent said they were uncertain about joining the alliance.
The results suggest a high level of trust in the authorities, particularly in the president and prime minister, whose stance apparently has a significant impact on public views. For the sake of comparison, last month, in a similar poll, yet where the position of the political leadership was unspecified, 28 percent were in favour of joining the alliance – which is still the highest level in decades.
Sakari Nurmela, research director at pollster Kantar TNS, said it was “completely natural” for the public to align themselves with political decision-makers.
In more detailed questions, almost half (46 percent) of those in favour of NATO accession identified the collective defence principle and deterrent effect as key arguments. Over a third (35 percent) said that the membership would secure Finland's international stance and 27 percent that the membership would consolidate the country’s position relative to Russia.
Remarkably, the imminent deterioration of relations with the eastern neighbour was the listed as most common argument against joining NATO (57 percent of respondents). Nearly a half (47 percent) were alarmed by the possibility of Finnish troops being sent overseas in NATO missions.
Nurmela argued that concerns about Russia's reaction are natural, too.
“When you share a border and history, it’ll definitely show. It’s clear that people want to maintain a good rapport”.
While formally non-aligned as a vestige of the Cold War-era, Finland has been inching closer to the alliance through various joint drills and training activities, broadening acquisition of US-made equipment and permits to NATO to use its land, airspace and territorial waters. Alongside neighbouring Sweden, it enjoys the status of special partner with multiple benefits.
The seething debate about NATO accession, which tends to flare up occasionally, has been fuelled by both Prime Minister Sanna Marin and President Sauli Niinistö emphasising in their respective New Year's messages that it was Finland's right to apply for NATO membership at will. Subsequently, though, both stressed that Finland had no plans to seek membership as of now.
Several Finnish parties, including the liberal-conservative National Coalition, are in favour of joining NATO.