Finland embraces Nato after tectonic shift in public opinion

Madrid, Jun 29 (EFE).- Russia’s invasion of Ukraine jolted public opinion in Finland and set it on a historic course towards Nato membership, bucking decades of neutrality, the nation’s foreign minister Pekka Haavisto said at the Nato summit in Madrid Wednesday.

Turkey’s last-minute decision to lift its veto on Sweden and Finland’s Nato accession following a trilateral meeting on Tuesday paved the way for Nato to officially invite the Nordic nations into the alliance at the Madrid summit the following day.

Their accession will be confirmed once all Nato members have approved the step in their respective parliaments, which is considered a formality.

Helsinki’s top diplomat described the step as “historic,” adding that Russian president Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine had sparked a shift in public opinion in Finland, which shares a 1,340-kilometer (830-mile) border with Russia.

“This was historic (…) — well it has been historic for Europe — but the 24th of February (the day Russia launched its invasion) changed the whole security thinking in Finland,” he told a press conference at the summit taking place in the Spanish capital.

He added Russia’s war had sent Finnish public support for Nato membership skyrocketing from 30% to 75%, with 188 out of 200 MPs voting in favor of membership in parliament.

The breakthrough occurred on Tuesday following a four-hour trilateral meeting between Turkey, Sweden and Finland under the auspices of Nato’s secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg.

Haavisto on Wednesday said he had “full respect” for the strong views and points of the Turkish delegation, adding that the Helsinki also brought forth “strong points.”

Turkey said it would lift its veto on Nato’s Nordic expansion after the Finnish and Swedish delegates agreed to enforce policy changes with regards to Kurdish organizations that Ankara views as terror groups as well as lift an arms embargo.

Stoltenberg told a press conference that the deal was “good agreement for Türkiye, it is a good agreement for Finland and Sweden and it is a good agreement for Nato.”

“It demonstrates that Putin did not succeed in closing Nato’s door.”

The accession of Finland and Sweden to Nato bucks a historic trend but also spells a geopolitical and defense shift in northern Europe that will “will allow a re-do of Nato’s northern defense,” Charly Salonius-Pasternak, a senior researcher at the Finnish Institute of Foreign Affairs told Efe on Wednesday.

“I think it’s a great step forward that Finland is now going from a ‘we alone have to defend ourselves’ to being part of a collective defense family,” he added.

“Russia had for years said they did not want to see Finland or Sweden seek Nato membership so I think from that perspective it’s an obvious strategic negative consequence for Russia and I would say a very positive one for all of Europe,” he added. EFE


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