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Petteri Orpo: Finland and NATO – time for the next step 


On Febru­ary 24th Europe woke up to a gloomy morn­ing. The brutal war on Ukraine launched by Russia shocked the whole world. At that same moment the Euro­pean secu­rity changed. Pres­i­dent Putin’s war is a ruth­less breach of inter­na­tional agree­ments and Ukraine’s sover­eignty.

Russia and Putin should have no illu­sions of their mistake. Ukraini­ans did not surren­der and have shown heroic deter­mi­na­tion to defend their coun­try. Attempts to install a pro-Russ­ian puppet govern­ment in Ukraine in a matter of days have failed. In fact, the conse­quences of the war for Russia have been cata­strophic. Europe and West and more united than ever and Russia is lone­lier than ever. The EU found itself united on hard sanc­tions and is now seek­ing to cut its energy depen­dence from Russia.

Now Russia but bear the conse­quences. Russia has become isolated from the inter­na­tional commu­nity, and its econ­omy and entire finan­cial system are in near­ing a total collapse. Demon­stra­tions in Russia are on the rise. Return­ing to dialogue requires Russia to refrain from mili­tary actions and complete with­drawal from Ukraine.

Here in the North too, the devel­op­ment is moving in a direc­tion that Putin’s Russia certainly did not expect. Finland is inten­si­fy­ing its defence coop­er­a­tion with the United States, Sweden and our other Nordic part­ners. The public opin­ion in both Finland and Sweden has histor­i­cally shifted as the major­ity support NATO’s member­ship for the first time.

Now is the time for seri­ous consid­er­a­tion of what this change in the secu­rity envi­ron­ment means for us.

For Finland Russia’s prox­im­ity is a key geostrate­gic fact, and the war in Ukraine indi­cates how the prob­lems asso­ci­ated with Russia’s aggres­sive behav­iour have mate­ri­al­ized. Russia is defin­ing its inter­ests in a way that threat­ens peace in Europe and creates inse­cu­rity in others. During the past decade, there have been upris­ings in several of Russia’s neigh­bors, which the Krem­lin has sought to violently suppress. Russia seeks a new sphere of influ­ence and wants to halt the demo­c­ra­tic devel­op­ment of other coun­tries. Not NATO, but the people’s will to decide for them­selves seems to be a threat to Putin’s regime.

The rela­tions between Russia and the West are approach­ing danger­ous times. A last­ing détente in the short term or a return to multi­lat­eral coop­er­a­tion with the current Russ­ian regime seem very unlikely. While Finland is not facing direct mili­tary threats, it has become evident that we need to re-eval­u­ate our rela­tions with Russia. While we have advo­cated for good neigh­borly rela­tions with Russia, its aggres­sion and state­ments regard­ing Finland’s possi­ble NATO member­ship stip­u­late how even the prin­ci­ples of good rela­tions are subject to rapid changes.

As Russia is openly threat­en­ing peace in Europe, we need to look at all means to improve our own as well as Europe’s over­all secu­rity. There is a broad consen­sus in Finland that Euro­pean secu­rity has changed perma­nently. At the same time Finland’s poten­tial NATO member­ship is on the table. Finland has been a reli­able NATO part­ner since 1994 and today, we have a close polit­i­cal-mili­tary rela­tion­ship. In recent years we have partic­i­pated in NATO exer­cises concern­ing collec­tive secu­rity in Europe. In prac­tice, Finland has become completely NATO inter­op­er­a­ble during the past decades.

Now is the time for Finland and NATO to look at the next steps. The National Coali­tion Party has supported Finland’s NATO member­ship since 2006 and contin­ues to do so. We believe that Finland’s – as well as Sweden’s – NATO member­ship would improve not just our own secu­rity but the over­all defence of Europe. Regard­ing NATO’s defence of North­ern Europe, Finland is valu­able piece due to our mili­tary capa­bil­i­ties and geostrate­gic posi­tion between the High North and the Baltic Sea.

When other coun­tries down­sized their mili­taries and capa­bil­i­ties after the Cold War, Finland did the exact oppo­site, mean­ing that we have always prepared ourselves for conven­tional mili­tary threats as well. We never dropped the ball on national defence. Our war-time strength is 280 000 soldiers, not exclud­ing our state-of-the-art defence capa­bil­i­ties. Not forget­ting that our F-35 fighter acqui­si­tions will take Finland’s defense budget to more than 2% of GDP for several years.

It is safe to conclude that Finland has been a valu­able secu­rity contrib­u­tor in Euro­pean secu­rity and contin­ues to be one. As the pillars of Euro­pean secu­rity are in flux, a common approach to uphold­ing peace and stabil­ity in Europe in the future is neces­sary. In this sense, the time for the next chap­ter for Finland and NATO is now.

Petteri Orpo

Chair­man of the National Coali­tion Party in Finland

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