In just a few weeks, a decision could be made that would change the geopolitical panorama of Europe and the world, which takes on special relevance in the midst of the war that is being waged in the old continent between Ukraine and Russia.
The decision is in the hands of Finland, which “during this spring”, as official sources in the country have stated, could determine whether or not to join NATO.
The country could join the transatlantic military alliance despite warnings of retaliation and “political and military consequences” from the Kremlin, who would paradoxically be motivating the possible entry of the Scandinavian country into the Western military bloc due to its invasion of Ukraine.
“Both joining (NATO) and not joining are options that have consequences”Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin said over the weekend.
“We need to assess both short-term and long-term effects. At the same time, we must keep in mind our goal: to ensure the safety of Finland and Finns in all situations.” he added.
Marin added that Finland’s relationship with neighboring Russia has irreversibly changed after the assault on Ukraine, and “It takes a lot of time and work to restore trust.”
Finland shares a 1,340 km border with Russia. the longest of any member of the European Union. Therefore, the Scandinavian country has remained militarily non-aligned, not participating in wars or conflicts, since the end of the Cold War for fear of provoking Moscow.
This weekend, the country’s Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said that Russia’s actions in Ukraine have “Totally changed the security landscape in Finland.”
He told Kyodo News that Finland must be prepared for “more negative military scenarios”.
The decision is not minor, especially for Russia, which has insisted on its warnings about “serious military and political consequences”, as a Russian politician put it last month, if Finland and Sweden joined the alliance.
“It is obvious that the entry of Finland and Sweden into NATO, which is a military organization in the first place, would have serious military and political consequences that would require reviewing the entire range of relations with these countries and taking retaliatory measures,” Sergei Belyayev, Second Director of the European Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry, told Interfax.
Last month, Finland also detected interference with GPS signals from passenger planes near the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad and the country’s eastern border with Moscow.
Finnish airline Finnair said its pilots noticed the unrest near Kaliningrad, which sits between NATO members Lithuania and Poland on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea.
Other planes reported unusual disturbances in GPS signals near Finland’s eastern border with Russia, and the planes were unable to land at Savonlinna airport due to the interference.
In February, Helsinki also received letters from Russia demanding clarity on the Nordic nation’s security future.
Haavisto later told The Times that the instance “it reminded (him) of the Cold War,” when the country was used to “this kind of Russian letter asking for ‘consultations’.”
Until now, nothing could persuade Finland or Sweden to join NATO, during the Cold War from 1947 to 1989, and in the decades after.
But in March it appeared that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had boosted public support in Finland for joining the NATO alliance to record levels, according to a recent poll in which 62 percent of respondents in Finland would support their government in applying to join the military cooperation organization.
According to the survey, which was commissioned by the Finnish public broadcaster Yle, it isto represents a 53 percent increase in the same survey that was released two weeks ago.
Later that month, another Helsingin Sanomat newspaper poll also suggested that a majority of the nation is in favor of joining NATO, and 54 percent responded that they would support the decision.
In neighboring Sweden, a similar recent poll showed that those in favor of NATO membership outnumber those against.
Added to all this are recent statements by Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, who stated that there is constant “popular support” for joining the alliance.
“NATO needs to know that there is popular support. We already have that, in my opinion.” he specified in statements with Yle last Wednesday.
However, in early March Niinisto himself had warned of the possibility that Finland could face “disruptive Russian behavior”, with cyber attacks and possible border violations if it tries to join NATO.
“We don’t even know all the possibilities of hybrid influence that someone can come up with. The entire information technology world is vulnerable.” The president then said according to AP.
Vladimir Putin has used NATO’s eastward expansion as one of several justifications for his brutal war and has demanded that Ukraine seek neutrality as a condition of withdrawal.
Meanwhile, heNATO countries have repeatedly rejected requests from Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky to directly help his country fight invading forces from Moscow for fear of being drawn into a wider conflict with Russia.
A week after the Russian invasion, Marin said a planned debate in parliament the following day would cover the situation in Ukraine and was not intended to be a “Larger conversation about Finland’s policy regarding military alignment or non-alignment”.
Since the assault on Ukraine, Finnish leaders have held multiple meetings with their American and Nordic counterparts regarding Finnish defense and security.
Although the balance seems inclined to the possibility of joining NATO, the decision is not easy and the outlook is not clear for Finland, what happens with the war on Ukrainian soil and the attitude of the West towards the entry of a new member to their military alliance could be decisive for the European geopolitical future.
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