NATO Membership Debated in Finnish Elections

NATO Membership Debated in Finnish Elections

HELSINKI — Finn President Sauli Niinistö has described future NATO membership for the non-aligned Nordic country as an “available option,” but insists that any move to join would require a national referendum.

The commander in chief of Finland’s armed forces, Niinistö likened the constitutional process and roadmap needed to apply for NATO membership to that of Finland’s formal application to join the European Union in the early 1990s.

NATO membership has surfaced as a hot topic among political parties and the Finnish electorate as Finland heads to fresh parliamentary elections in mid-April.

“At this time no party leader is advocating NATO membership but, on the other hand, all are considering the possibility,” said Niinistö.

Finland’s deepening defense relationship with Sweden has raised the prospect of a joint leap by the two neighbors into NATO at some stage. However, discussions between the two states on establishing a bilateral defense pact so far have not mentioned support for such a strategy.

The strengthening long-term relationship between Finland and NATO was aired during talks here between NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb on March 5.

The meeting covered significant neighborhood events, including Russia strengthening its military presence in the High North and the Baltic Sea areas; the fallout from the regional instability caused by the Kremlin’s actions in Ukraine; NATO’s role in enhancing security and stability in the Baltic Sea area; and future cooperation between Finland and NATO.

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