HELSINKI—As Finland’s application for membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is now getting closer to reality, its senior officials and political experts have expressed confidence that it will be able to repel any act of aggression that may come from Russia, which has strongly opposed its joining the Western security alliance.
Speaking to foreign journalists taking part in the annual Finnish correspondents program earlier this month, Janne Kuusela, director general of defense policy at the Finnish Ministry of Defence, conceded that “the calculation (of the evaluation of plans for the Russia) is a little more difficult but we can strengthen our defense.
“We are not worried, we are not afraid, but there is a big risk. They will try to influence us in some way,” Kuusela said. “[But] we can face anything the Russians throw at us.
“It can be nasty, bloody, but we will survive it,” he added.
Accumulation on 2 fronts
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in late February, Finland, which shares a 1,340 kilometer eastern border with its neighboring giant, has begun to strengthen its military and cybersecurity fronts.
In particular, Helsinki is confident in its cyber strategy, an area which, according to Undersecretary of State Kai Sauer, Russia had exploited in Ukraine.
“For the foreseeable future, there would be more for defense,” Kuusela said. “But we hope we never have to use it.”
Finland and neighboring Sweden – countries with a long history of strategic neutrality – applied for NATO membership shortly after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
Suspicious of NATO expansion, Moscow had opposed Ukraine’s desire to join the security bloc and warned the two Nordic countries against doing the same.
Initially, Turkey, a member of NATO, also opposed the candidacy of Finland and Sweden.
But last week its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, finally dropped his objection and signed a trilateral agreement with the Nordic states.
Finland’s decision to join NATO was not easy. Since gaining independence from the then Soviet Union in December 1917, Finland has maintained a delicate balance in its foreign policy: “keep your head down but act quickly in a crisis,” Kimmo said. Rentola, professor of political history at the university. University of Helsinki.
For decades, the people of Finland felt there was no need to join NATO since they saw their country as a ‘guarantor of security rather than a researcher’, said Dr Iro Sarkka, also from the University of Helsinki.
But “that changed after (Russian President Vladimir) Putin became a NATO fighter,” Rentola said. “In practice, Putin actually decided that Finland and Sweden would give up neutrality.”
After the invasion of Ukraine, Finnish support for NATO membership soared to 80% in an opinion poll – a historic high which was also evident in strong parliamentary support for the bid, Sauer said.
Ready to fight
Even more impressive, he said, was the survey result showing that 81% of Finns were “ready to take up arms to defend Finland and participate in collective defence”.
Ukraine was behind this sea change in public opinion, Sauer said, and Finland is unlikely to reconsider its NATO bid, even if Moscow halts or tempers in some way. or another his actions against Kyiv.
“It’s a generational experience,” Sauer said. ”Political confidence is very favorable to the parties and coalitions (which voted for the NATO candidacy).”
Yet “changes are happening so quickly that it would take time for Finland to develop a NATO policy,” said Matti Pesu, a researcher at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs.
Once a member of the alliance, Finland expected to champion, among other things, a more ambitious strategy for the defense of the European Union, Pesu said.
(The Inquirer was the only Southeast Asian outlet to take part in this year’s Finnish correspondent program, which also included reporters from the US, France, Angola, UK, Australia , Turkey, Israel, Poland, Hungary, Tanzania, Uzbekistan and Chile. )
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