March 2001

Getting ever closer to NATO

Finland is closer to the core of the North Atlantic Alliance than is generally admitted. A major article in the news weekly, Suomen Kuvalehti (9 March 2001), implies that the partnership between Finland and NATO is getting ever cosier. For many reasons this open secret is being protected, the magazine says.

The article does not list these reasons, but points out that the price of NATO membership could be Russia's wrath. This is the reason why Finland is happy with a careful approach.

Suomen Kuvalehti quotes Jonathan Eyal, Director of Studies at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence Studies in London, who says that Finnish politicians deliberately blur the reality of the relationship between NATO and Finland. Eyal is quoted as saying that he actually understands the Finnish attitude.

"Finnish politicians are partly right when they say that joining NATO now is not essential. NATO has changed after the Cold War. Official membership does not have the same meaning as it used to."

Eyal defines NATO membership as a more political than military decision.

"If one views the question purely militarily, the difference is not big. Finland is already a member of the Western defence community. It may make sense from Finland's point of view that it does not hurry with the decision."

Suomen Kuvalehti asked the Finnish Ambassador to NATO, Leif Blomqvist, what the country's relationship with NATO is. This was Blomqvist's answer:

"A new security culture has grown around NATO. Its central aim is — together with the EU's enlargement — to increase stability in the area which came out the Soviet Union's sphere of influence ten years ago."

Suomen Kuvalehti points out that Finland, like other non-NATO EU countries, are not in a hurry to join the military alliance. They know that NATO would welcome them should they apply for membership.

The magazine also talked to a high defence official in the Finnish NATO embassy, Pauli Järvenpää. This interview touched on the crisis management aspect of NATO's current operations. As this element of the alliance's work is emphasised, Finland automatically approaches NATO's core centre. Finland is highly active in the crisis management work, with 800 Finnish soldiers participating in peace keeping in the Balkans.

Järvenpää says in the interview that when it comes to crisis management, Finland is doing the same kind of work as NATO member countries. The article concludes that "Finland is far inside NATO already".

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