Finland seeks new security - in a report published today, the pros and cons of NATO membership
A current report on the change in the security environment will be published in the afternoon. It describes the drastic change in Europe after Russia invaded Ukraine. Of Finland's options, NATO membership is likely to gain the most.
NATO in Europe
This Wednesday is a historic day for Finnish security policy. The long period of neutrality policy ended in 1995 with Finland's membership in the EU and turned into a military non-alignment. Russia's military invasion of Ukraine on 24 February changed European security policy so drastically that now is the time to reassess.
For that assessment, the Board will today publish a Current Report on Changes in the Security Environment. It has been drafted under the leadership of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The report is a 30-page report that contains a description of the change in the security policy environment and the options that Finland has in this new situation. It deals with Finland's foreign, security, and defense policy, security of supply, border security, and cyber and hybrid threats.
According to preliminary data, the pros and cons, pros and cons of the options are described. The list of alternatives has not been given, but it is likely that at least the continuation of the current one, the conclusion of closer defense agreements between two or three, and the application for membership in the military alliance NATO will be considered.
The report, therefore, does not make a presentation on applying for NATO membership but describes the advantages and disadvantages of NATO membership as one option.
Prompt consideration in Parliament
The discussion of the report in Parliament will begin soon, as the referendum debate will take place immediately next Wednesday. After that, the discussion will continue in the committees. Previously, Chairman Matti Vanhanen (center) estimated that the process will take a couple of months. However, even faster schedules have been postponed.
The reporting procedure is justified by the fact that in this way all parties and all parliamentarians are, as it were, on the same information when forming their own positions.
President Sauli Niinistö has emphasized that it is important that even those who disagree are aware of the arguments on which the various solutions are based. This makes it easier for those whose own position is in the minority to accept the result.
The actual NATO decision in its own right
According to the plans so far, a possible decision on applying for NATO membership would be brought to Parliament as a second report. That would be a joint proposal by the President and the Government, on which Parliament would take a position.
The war in Ukraine has now been going on for almost seven weeks. The situation of civilians in parts of Ukraine is becoming increasingly difficult. At the same time, villages and towns occupied by the Russians have revealed increasingly brutal atrocities against civilians.
The events of the war have increased the pressure to speed up Finland's solutions. It is now considered possible that the proposal of the President and the Government should be submitted to Parliament even before the discussion of the current report has been completed. Then Parliament would take a stand on possible NATO membership as early as May.
Looking at the map, it is clear that only Finland, Belarus, and Ukraine are Russia's non-NATO European neighbors.
Preferably one trip with Sweden
Finland's relationship with NATO was assessed in a separate study(switch to another service)in 2016. The text is largely still valid.
In the 2016 report, a working group led by Teija Tiilikainen, the then director of the Foreign Policy Institute, emphasized how important it would be for Finland and Sweden to reach the same solution and proceed at the same pace.
The report directly states that Finland's position would be precarious if Finland joined NATO, but Sweden did not. At that time, Finland's only ground connection to NATO would be northern Norway. From Finland's point of view, the situation would also be troublesome if Sweden joined NATO but Finland did not.
Years have passed since the survey, but the geography has not changed for any reason. Therefore, Finland's contacts with the Swedish government are now very close. For example, just today, on the day the report was published, the Social Democratic Prime Minister Sanna Marin is in Stockholm as a guest of the Swedish Social Democratic Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson.
The people's position on NATO
The war in Ukraine has brought the NATO positions of the Finns to a historic change. In Yle's first NATO survey on the days of the war, 53 percent of respondents were in favor of joining NATO. Within weeks, support has strengthened, with 64% of NATO supporters at the beginning of March.
Of the parties, the Coalition Party and the RKP have been supporting Finland's NATO membership for years, while others have been cautious or negative.
Last weekend , the Center Party Council came to the unanimous conclusion that now the security environment has changed so much that the party leadership is allowed to make a decision that could be applying for NATO membership. The Social Democrats will set out their position in early May.
The chairman of Basic Finns, Riikka Purra, and the parliamentary group had already taken a stand in favor of NATO. The Left Alliance no longer makes NATO a threshold issue for being in government. See Chairman Iiris Suomela(switch to another service)expressed a reserved yes position after the matter had been discussed in the Greens' party government, delegation and parliamentary group. By reservations, Suomela means that it must be ensured "that the path to NATO is safe".
The leadership of the parties and parliamentary groups is monitoring the report and changes in the security environment in a parliamentary monitoring group chaired by President Vanhanen, which has been nicknamed the "NATO Fist". This group can make decisions quickly if the need arises.
The consultative referendum on NATO membership is no longer supported by the president, nor by the party leaders, nor by the clear majority of Yle's poll.