As Russia’s unprovoked attack on peaceful neighbor Ukraine spreads shock and fear throughout Europe, Finland is rethinking its long-time stance on NATO.
According to the Finnish Business and Policy Forum, support in Finland to join NATO has doubled since just one year ago, with a majority now voicing support for the first time since the organization began polling such sentiment in 1984. The Forum has collected data twice each year for almost 40 years to track attitudes and values, which includes politics, economics, foreign relations, the environment, and well-being. Chief among those interests remains whether Finland should join NATO.
Results from Autumn 2021 found only 26% of the population supported joining NATO, but following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, that number has leaped to 60% support for NATO membership. The same percentage of Finns support their government making a decision on the matter as soon as before the end of this year.
This is a remarkable shift in public sentiment. Historic support among the Finns for joining NATO has remained low, with the previous peak in Autumn 1998 showing just 28% support.
The study clearly cited Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as responsible for the shift in opinion.
“The change is beyond comparison, both in terms of size and speed,” The Forum noted. The survey sampled over 2,000 responses from across a range of ages 18 to 79.
“The change in attitudes observed in the survey is a result of the Finns’ reaction to the change in their security environment, which seems to have left the old security policy philosophy, which had dominated in Finland for many years, without a foundation.”
The study said that Russia has shown it “does not respect its neighbor’s sovereignty” and made real the “terrible nature of a defensive war fought on a country’s own territory.”
Finland and Russia share a particularly hostile history, most notably culminating in the Winter War of 1939, during which the Soviet Union attempted to invade Finland at the start of World War II.
The Soviet Union suffered devastating losses, estimated between 126,000 and 168,000 troops dead or missing. Finland lost just shy of 26,000 troops.
The Soviet Union cited security concerns and demanded borderland territory from Finland, even establishing a puppet Finnish Communist government known as the Finnish Democratic Republic, which the Soviets used as justification to invade Finland – much as Vladimir Putin did in recognizing four “breakaway” regions of Ukraine as “independent,” and then used that as an excuse to invade Ukraine.
No wonder the Finns are on edge!