Two opposing analyses have emerged on the consequences for Finland of the Baltic countries' future NATO membership. The official government line is that this will have no effect on Finland's security evaluations. The other strand of opinion says that, on the contrary, when the Baltic countries join NATO, the basis for Finland's military non-alignment collapses.
The latter view, interestingly, was put forward by a member of the government, Kimmo Sasi, the conservative minister for foreign trade and European affairs. The government immediately rejected Sasi's plea for an investigation into the question of the Baltic countries, NATO and Finland. But the parliamentary debate on Finland's security policy obviously centred on this question.
Sasi said in an interview with the regional newspaper Aamulehti (5 September 2001) that earlier the argument for Finland's military non-alignment was that Finland's NATO membership would weaken security in Northern Europe.
"Now that the evaluation has been made that the Baltic countries' NATO membership would strengthen North European security, the main argument for Finland's military non-alignment in a way does not exist any more."
Sasi added that one might now presume that also Finland's membership would add to the region's security. One needs to think through whether this is the case, he said. The minister would like to see a wide-ranging citizens' debate about "what really are Finland's security policy interests".
Helsingin Sanomat (6 September 2001) points out that the government's attitude to NATO expansion has changed. Whilst earlier ministers used to warn about dangers connected with NATO's enlargement to the Baltic, this development is now seen as unproblematic. The newspaper comments that clearly the government has re-evaluated its opinion but has left it unclear what the practical consequences are.
In an editorial, Helsingin Sanomat (6 September 2001) notes that some people have been complaining that the government's security policy paper which is being debated in parliament this week does not deal at all with the question of NATO's expansion to the Baltic and its consequences. The newspaper admits that things have been moving fast but does not find it satisfactory that the government only says that this does not essentially have an effect on Finland's position.
According to Helsingin Sanomat, the question which seems to inform the government's paper is the potential threat posed by the insecurities of Russia's future development. The paper notes that it is difficult to forecast Russia's future role in the Baltic. As an alternative to positive development, there is the possibility of a failure in Moscow's reform policies and a change in Russia's security policy.
The left-wing Kansan Uutiset (6 September 2001) writes in an editorial that it is inevitable that the Baltic countries' NATO membership will provoke heated arguments in Finland. The newspaper does not believe, however, that Finland's security position would change not for the worse anyway.
"There has been and still is more in common between Finland and Sweden's security policy interests. Only if Sweden joined NATO, would Finland have to think seriously about its position. Even then the basic line of security policy could not be changed without the consent of the vast majority of people."
In the parliamentary debate, the Green Party warned that Finland "must not drift into NATO the way it did in EU membership". In its editorial, Helsingin Sanomat agrees with the Greens in their demand that NATO supporters should come out of their closets so that the debate can be conducted using real names. Only in this way would citizens know what it is all about.
More articles in the NATO section of the archive
See also articles doubting NATO's capabilities as crisis manager:
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