Russian aggression in Ukraine has brought Finnish public opinion closer to NATO than ever before.
Finland’s political parties will meet on Tuesday to discuss Russia’s attack on Ukraine and Finland’s role in the new balance of power in Europe. Finland’s potential NATO membership will also be on the table, Prime Minister Sanna Marin told reporters on Monday.
The atmosphere in Helsinki is tense: Finland has the longest border in Europe with Russia at more than 1,300 kilometers, but is not part of the military alliance. The country is a close NATO ally, but there was little appetite to join the club – until now.
“It’s very understandable that many Finns changed or are changing their minds after Russia started waging war on Ukraine,” Marin said.
The Finns assess “what is the line that Russia has crossed and what is the line that Russia will not cross… And if Russia does cross a line, will we face it alone or with others,” Marin said. She did not comment on her personal position on NATO.
A survey by Finnish broadcasting company Yle found that 53% of Finns support their country’s NATO membership. This figure would rise to 66% if neighboring Sweden also joined NATO. This marks a dramatic change in public attitude – in the previous poll in 2017, only 19% of Finns were in favor of NATO membership.
A citizens’ initiative to hold a referendum on Finland’s NATO membership collected the required 50,000 signatures in less than a week, forcing Parliament to debate it.
In a move Prime Minister Marin called “historic”, Finland announced it was offering arms to Ukraine. “Finland strongly supports Ukraine’s independence and sovereignty. Finland will offer arms to Ukraine and aid will be delivered quickly. This decision will not endanger national defense,” Marin said.