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Finns Ready for NATO Without Sweden While PM Promises 'Hand in Hand' Accession

© AP Photo / Olivier MatthysFinland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin speaks with the media as she arrives for an EU summit in Brussels, Thursday, June 23, 2022.
Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin speaks with the media as she arrives for an EU summit in Brussels, Thursday, June 23, 2022. - Sputnik International, 1920, 03.02.2023
While the two Nordic countries jointly abandoned their decades-long policy of non-alignment and applied for NATO membership, Sweden’s bid ran into trouble, with Ankara following a series of provocations ranging from Turkish President Recep Erdogan being hung in effigy to Quran-burnings in front of the Turkish embassy.
The majority of Finns are ready to join NATO without Sweden, according to a survey commissioned by the Finnish daily newspaper Ilta-Sanomat and the Finnish opinion institute Taloustutkimus.
53 percent of the respondents answered that Finland's NATO accession must not depend on neighboring Sweden's timetable. By contrast, merely 28 percent said that Finland should join NATO at the same time as Sweden, while 19 percent had no opinion on the matter.

"Sweden's cause is not ours," Juho Rahkonen of the pollster Taloustutkimus commented, alluding to the popular slogan "Finland's case is ours" which encapsulated the Swedes' historic solidarity with Finns during the Winter War with the Soviet Union.

In May 2022, Sweden and Finland abandoned their policy of non-alignment and filed a joint NATO bid, seeking to enter the alliance together as neighbors. However, Sweden’s bid encountered Turkey’s fierce opposition following a series of high-profile affronts, which included Turkish President Recep Erdogan being hung in effigy and several Quran-burnings in front of the Turkish embassy.
Earlier this week, Erdogan said Turkey won’t green-light Swedish membership in NATO as long as Qurans are allowed to be burned in the country. By contrast, Finland, which prohibits violations of religious peace, was offered a quick path to the alliance.
A Swedish Navy fast-attack craft patrols in the the Stockholm Archipelago, Sweden (file) - Sputnik International, 1920, 30.01.2023
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However, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin ventured during a recent press conference in Stockholm that the two nations’ common journey to join NATO must be completed "hand in hand, the way it was started." She also lamented the idea of Sweden being portrayed as a "troublemaker" and a "problem child in the classroom" and suggested that it ticked all the boxes regarding NATO requirements.
Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson admitted that the Quran-burning protest in Stockholm had tarnished the nation’s image abroad and hurt its dialogue with Turkey, while its Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom nevertheless said his country "won’t compromise on freedom of expression," leaving the future of Stockholm’s bid hanging in the air, as Danish-Swedish politician Rasmus Paludan pledged to continue burning copies of the Quran "every Friday" until Sweden gets admitted to NATO — something he dubbed a lesson in free speech" for Erdogan.
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