- Sputnik International, 1920, 25.02.2022
Russia's Special Operation in Ukraine
On February 24, 2022 Russia launched a special military operation in Ukraine, aiming to liberate the Donbass region where the people's republics of Donetsk and Lugansk had been living under regular attacks from Kiev's forces.

Bank of Finland Сhief Сalls for NATO Membership, Ban on Russian Energy Imports

© AFP 2023 / GEORGES GOBET / NATO flag in the wind at the NATO headquarters in Brussels. (File)
NATO flag in the wind at the NATO headquarters in Brussels. (File) - Sputnik International, 1920, 28.03.2022
Following Russia's special operation in Ukraine, Finland and Sweden, both non-aligned for historical reasons, have seen a marked shift in public opinion toward NATO. However, the leadership in both countries has been more reserved.
Governor of the Bank of Finland Olli Rehn has called for Finland to join NATO using an arrangement similar to that of its northern neighbour.

"A defence alliance based on the Norwegian model would be a sensible option for Finland", Rehn said in an interview with the daily Helsingin Sanomat. "This would mean that no nuclear weapons or permanent NATO bases would be deployed in Finland. Such a defensive model would not threaten anyone", he added, venturing it would be acceptable for the Russian leadership.

Rehn, a former European commissioner, has been a staunch supporter of NATO for decades. He first called for Finland to join NATO in a 1994 opinion piece, when he was a lecturer in political science at the University of Helsinki and a Centre Party MP. Remarkably, in the very same opinion piece he called Ukraine a "powder keg".
Rehn furthermore suggested that the EU should phase out energy imports in order to limit Russia's foreign income in light of the Ukrainian conflict, in which Russia intervened to protect the inhabitants of the newly-recognised Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk from intensifying attacks by Ukrainian forces. While Russia's stated goal is to demilitarise and de-Nazify Ukraine, the West portrays the special operation as "invasion" and has introduced several rounds of crippling sanctions targeting all spheres of life from tech to consumer goods.
The Bank of Finland governor noted that EU energy imports from Russia this year are projected to be worth some 600 billion euros at current prices, three times higher than in 2020. Stopping Russian energy exports has been on the European agenda since the start of the operation. Last week, Finnish Finance Minister Annika Saarikko proclaimed that Finland must work to end its dependence on Russian fossil fuels. Earlier in March, Prime Minister Sanna Marin also said Helsinki intends to drop its energy dependence on Russia "as soon as possible", citing a "shift in views" across Europe following Russia's special operation in Ukraine. In a pivotal point, Germany decided to suspend the key Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which has been seen as an important tool for guaranteeing Europe's energy security. Finland, for its part, has frozen plans to build a nuclear power plant in partnership with Russia's Rosatom.
The NATO debate in traditionally non-aligned Finland has flared up anew since Russia's special operation is Ukraine began. Over recent weeks, two groundbreaking opinion polls emerged, in which around 60 percent of Finns voted in favour of joining the alliance, for the first time in history.
Yet, the country's elite has been markedly more cautious. President Sauli Niinistö said it was "clear" that possible Finnish membership in NATO would permanently increase tensions with Russia along the two countries' 1,300-kilometre-long border. While calling a "preventive effect" the greatest benefit of NATO membership, Niinistö ventured it would entail various types of Russian retaliation.
A similar dynamic has manifested itself in neighbouring Sweden, a fellow non-aligned nation, with recent opinion polls indicating a first-time majority in favour of joining the alliance. The nation's ruling class, however, is considerably more reticent.
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