The NATO option has long been cherished in speeches, and warm-up rounds proved necessary.
If Over the decades, Finland would not have had its own separate NATO discussion on the so-called NATO option; the decision to join NATO could have been much more painful than it has been this spring.
Warm-up cycles were needed. At the same time, it is clear that even the Coalition Party, while under the responsibility of the government, never seriously pursued Finland’s NATO membership. Finland will be taken over by NATO by a president who, for a very long time, thought that the NATO option would provide Finland with the most security if left unused.
However, Finland’s security policy depends on time – and on rapid reactions. When the bottom fell from the former, a small nation put everything else aside and focused on one thing, NATO.
It took four months for President Sauli Niinisto, the government of Sanna Marini (sd), parties, officials and members of parliament.
Although the option had been cherished in speeches, the NATO process was created from scratch. The accession process is demanding and multi-stage, but the support of key NATO leaders has been gained for membership – and Finland is also safe for the time when Finland is not yet in NATO but has applied for membership.
NATO debate the starting point can be timed to many different places.
A year ago, Russia began assembling its troops on the Ukrainian border. Suspicion grew as President Vladimir Putin put pressure on Ukraine and made threatening demands on the West.
In his New Year’s speech, Niinistö said that Finland’s foreign and security policy is stable and built to withstand difficult times. However, Niinisto also heard words repeated since then: it is necessary to know when to hurry and when to grind. The words had been chosen skillfully. They agreed, whatever Finland did.
In January, the United States, NATO and the European Union had special correspondence with Russia over who would decide on NATO membership. It was speculated whether Putin would attack Ukraine or not.
Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, and the Finnish leadership held a historic press conference at the Presidential Palace. The decision-makers were surprised, but the Finns knew what the attack meant. No reports were needed that the security situation in Finland was more serious than ever after the end of the Cold War.
The citizen analysis was channeled into Yle’s NATO support poll at the end of February. For the first time, a majority of Finns, 53 per cent, supported NATO membership. At that moment, the NATO debate between MPs began. Niinistö dived deep into the NATO process by meeting U.S. President Joe Biden at the White House on March 4th.
Woke up in Sweden. The Swedish prime ministers and defense ministers came to Finland only a day after Niinistö had met Biden.
Steps to NATO could also be taken quickly because Finland’s defense was NATO-compatible. The redemption of the NATO option began in the early 2000s. NATO’s presence in the Baltic Sea has been important for Finland’s security, and the NATO partnership strengthened Finland’s defense capabilities. NATO and Finland share common values and threats.
Natoon accession is a political decision. It’s on hand. The NATO process has been close, and much remains to be done. The role of the United States and NATO in the whole process will become clear later – but Russia’s role is already clear. In any case, the NATO process has been more transparent in Finland than in Sweden.
65% of Finns now support NATO membership (HS 28.4.) The state leadership has formed its position, and last week it became clear that this is also the case with Parliament. On Thursday, Niinistö discussed Finland’s NATO membership with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
The door to NATO is open. In Finland, it was understood that you can knock on the door, but you can only do it once.
The editorials are HS’s statements on a topical issue. The writings are prepared by HS’s editorial staff and reflect the magazine principle.
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