NATO views become polarised

The terrorist attacks against the US have given new life to NATO debate in Finland. Not surprisingly, the attacks have polarised opinions about the merits and disadvantages of possible NATO membership.

According to a leading article in the left-wing newspaper Kansan Uutiset (20 September 2001), those who have been supporting Finland's NATO membership now think that the country should fully participate in the campaign against terrorism. This, in their opinion, requires NATO membership. NATO-minded people also emphasise the possibility that Finland itself might one day require NATO's protection.

Those against NATO membership, on the other hand, think that recent events offer strong evidence of the advantages of non-alignment, Kansan Uutiset writes.

"As a NATO member, Finland would have to participate in a possibly very hasty war path led by the United States against terrorists and their supporters, a campaign which might also target innocent people. Even if Finland didn't have to participate in the actual military operations it would have to share political and moral responsibility for them. This is what current NATO member countries have to do. For the time being, Finland is safe from international terrorism but as a member it would become a potential target of terrorism, the opponents of the membership say.

"The opponents' arguments clearly carry more weight, at least in the short term. Also, support for NATO membership among citizens has supposedly fallen during the last few days, and will fall further if the United States attacks Afganistan or some other country under NATO flags.

"In spite of all, it is worthwhile — and unavoidable — to ponder the effects on Finland of changes in world situation. For a long time now a discussion has been going on about a change in potential threats. World peace is not any more threatened by traditional wars between states and military alliances but by internal ethnic and religious conflicts and international terrorism. Internal conflicts have been a rude reality for over ten years, now terrorism has taken a similar role.

"The United States reacts to terrorism by preparing to wage a traditional war, even if this seems irrational. It can spoil the possibility that world's countries might approach each other in an unprecedented way before a common threat. However, it is still possible that traditional enemies, like Russia and the United States, and China and the United States, approach each other. The motives could be very unpalatable — each have their own terrorists — but there you are. This all would also have a crucial effect on NATO's role and status.

"NATO would finally lose its original role and task as a military alliance against 'the eastern threat'. It would become solely an organisation for peacekeeping and crisis management and against terrorism. This would require a major redevelopment of NATO's preparedness. Also Russia's relationship with NATO could change completely. This development must be watched carefully also in Finland, even if our own membership is not topical."

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