NATO debate hots up

Whether Finland will or will not join NATO in the near future is continually a subject of much debate and press comment. In a leading article, the regional newspaper Aamulehti (27 August 2001) writes that if NATO in its next summit in Prague invites the Baltic countries to become members, the debate on Finnish membership will surely gather momentum. There will be more people questioning the official policy of non-alignment.

Aamulehti refers to an article by Karolina Honkanen from the Finnish Institute of International Affairs in which she pointed out that the leading motive in Finnish post-Cold War policy has been to maximise infuence on matters concerning Finland.

"If this line is continued, it would be logical to apply for [NATO] membership; the process which led to Finnish membership in the EU would serve as precedent.

"It is also important to observe that when the Baltic countries step under the protective wings of the military alliance, so many matters concerning Finland will be decided in NATO that it would make sense to sit around the same table."

According to Aamulehti, this does not, however, mean that it would be absolutely necessary to join NATO.

Another regional newspaper, Etelä-Suomen Sanomat (30 August 2001), follows the same line of argument of the importance of being present where decisions concerning Finland are made. The paper also refers to Honkanen's research which "assures that small countries are not simply pushed around".

"For instance Norway and Denmark, when they became members, were able to push through their own conditions and refused to deploy nuclear weapons or allow troops in their territory in peacetime. These countries were actively pursuing policies of detente. Now Denmark campaigns for the NATO membership of the Baltic countries. The researcher believes that Finland as well would have good chances to be active inside NATO."

In an interview in Turun Sanomat (26 August 2001), Honkanen said that if Finland joins NATO, the motive for membership would not be so much getting security guarantees as gaining influence. Honkanen warns that the non-aligned countries' group will become very small in future.

"Elsewhere in Europe the EU and NATO are seen as two sides of the coin. My estimation is that countries belonging to them both have better possibilities of participating in key decisions concerning European security. These countries have better personal NATO connections, they have been honing their co-operation for years and they have access to secret intelligence. Non-aligned countries may fall out from the EU nucleus."

Honkanen believes that after the Cold War, the space for manoeuvre for small countries has become larger. They can find their own niche for action. Finland might even be able to increase its role as a mediator and peacemaker, she says.

"Finland's own role could be to enhance co-operation between the new NATO and Russia. This has been Finland's role in the EU as well. Finland could help to alleviate the negative consequences of NATO enlargement in Russia and thus increase the stability of neighburing areas. NATO membership would also give Finland more say in the EU's and NATO's common crisis management operations."


See also:

More articles in the NATO section of the archive

See also articles doubting NATO's capabilities as crisis manager:

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