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Finland takes first step towards NATO candidacy

Finnish ministers Krista Mikkonen (internal), Pekka Haavisto (foreign) and Antti Kaikkonen (defence), in Helsinki, 13 April 2022.

This is not yet an application for NATO membership, but it is hard not to see it as a first step towards candidacy. Officially, the strategic report, which will be presented by the government in Helsinki on Wednesday, April 13, should only serve as the basis for discussions in parliament in the coming weeks. However, when the defense and foreign ministers emphasized the importance of the democratic process, the conditional had little place in their comments when they called for a decision that will have to intervene “in the coming weeks”

The 53-page report complements the latest strategic analysis published by the government in November 2020. The goal: to assess the impact of the Russian offensive against Ukraine on the security of Finland and the alternatives now in the country of 5.5 million people, who share 1,300 km of border with Russia. Finland has been a member of the European Union (EU) since 1995 and is militarily non-aligned, while developing a stronger partnership with NATO.

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In the first lines of the report, the Finnish government points the finger at Moscow’s responsibility, which: “has brought about a fundamental change in the security environment and security policies of Finland and Europe”† The war in Ukraine showed that Russia “is willing to use extensive military force against civilian targets to achieve its political objectives”

The report clarifies that membership “will not oblige Finland to accept nuclear weapons, permanent bases or troops on its territory”.

In this context, the government lists the benefits of joining the Atlantic Alliance: “The most significant effect would be that Finland would be part of NATO’s collective defense and covered by the security guarantees set out in Article 5.” This system, which provides for mutual assistance of NATO members in the event of aggression, would “considerable” the deterrent effect of the Finnish defence, “because it would rely on the capabilities of the entire Alliance”† Another benefit: “The barrier to the use of military force in the Baltic Sea region would increase, which would strengthen the long-term stability of the region. †

The report states that a membership “will not oblige Finland to accept nuclear weapons, permanent bases or troops on its territory”, and that the country, which recently announced it would spend €2.2 billion on its defense over the next four years, “will continue to maintain and develop a strong national defense capability”

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