Finland & Sweden NATO Applications Could Be 'Imminent" After Stoltenberg Hints At Fast-Tracking
Last weekend saw Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin signal a complete reversal of policy direction, saying that a "new security environment" in Europe brought on by Russia's invasion of Ukraine means the country has to rethink its long-standing policy of neutrality toward the NATO bloc. "Russia is not the neighbor we thought it was," she said of Moscow’s ongoing assault on Ukraine, calling it a "flagrant violation".
"In this new situation and changed security environment, we’ll have to evaluate all means to guarantee the safety of Finland and Finns," Marin said. "We’ll have to seriously mull over our own stance and approach to military alignment. We’ll have to do this carefully but quickly, effectively during the course of this spring."
Days after these words which Moscow saw as highly provocative, Axios in a new report says Finland's ascendancy to the alliance appears "imminent". "Public support and political momentum for Finland joining NATO has reached an all-time high as a result of the war in Ukraine, raising the very real possibility that the alliance's borders with Russia could extend by more than 830 miles in a matter of months," the report says. It could be a mere weeks away.
Sweden is also mentioned in the report as being positioned to seek entry into NATO alongside Finland. This after NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg's open invitation this week. He suggested both Nordic countries would be fast tracked. He remarked this week that he expects "all 30 allies to welcome" Finland and Sweden should they choose to apply.
And according to Axios, "60% of Finns now support joining NATO, according to a survey conducted last month — a 34-point jump from last fall, and the highest level since polling on the issue began in 1998."
Finland's former prime minister, Alexander Stubb, articulated the current climate and thinking in Helsinki. "I think Finns at the moment are driven by what I call rational fear," he told Axios.
"You have to balance between realism and idealism. Realism is that you have a strong standing military as we have, and idealism is to try to cooperate with a big neighbor," he explained.
"Finland is driven by rational fear... that's why we'll join NATO."— Connect the World (@CNNConnect) April 8, 2022
Former Finnish Prime Minister and Director at @STGEUI @alexstubb tells @EleniGiokos about Finland's decision to fast-track its application for NATO membership: pic.twitter.com/Z7iUyxKMZZ
Stubb added: "There has been this bona fide attempt to forge a functioning relationship with Russia, and now that people see that that is impossible — especially under [President Vladimir] Putin — they've changed their opinion."
Finland has over the years regularly hosted and participated in NATO exercises, while also seeking to pursue transparent and positive relations with Moscow.