Finland and Sweden ‘closer than ever’ to joining Nato after Putin’s threats backfire

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Elina Valtonen is a MP and vice-president of the National Coalition Party, which has supported Nato membership for Finland since 2006 and is in opposition.

She said, “Finland is closer than it has ever been to applying for Nato membership.For the first time people feel that the aggression that Russia has been executing towards its neighbours […] also concerns Finland and Sweden.”

This was in response to Russian rhetoric, the invasion of Georgia, the illegal annexation of Crimea, the build-up of troops on the Ukrainian border and now Russian actions in Kazakhstan, she said.

Ms Valtonen said there were emerging signs of cross-party support for the move among the younger generation of politicians.

At the end of December, Atte Harjanne, the parliamentary head of the Green Party, called on it to reverse its long held stance against Nato membership and actively campaign for Finland to join the alliance.

A poll last month found that only 24 per cent of Finnish citizens were positive towards joining, an increase of 2 per cent from last year, with 51 per cent against membership.

But experts believe the country’s consensus-driven culture means that this could change rapidly if the country’s president or prime minister began to campaign for membership.

Matti Pesu, a senior research fellow at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, told the Telegraph that Russia’s demand, included in a so-called ‘draft treaty’ published on December 17, was influential.  

“The option to join NATO has been instrumentalised as a soft deterrent,” he said. “Russia’s demands, basically, would shut this NATO option, and the fear that the door is closing has sparked a rather vivid national debate.”

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