If Finland joins NATO, it could spoil the country’s relations with Russia for an indefinite period, according to an independent assessment report quoted by the Finnish broadcaster Yle, which added that Russian military experts shared the report’s concerns.
The survey on the implications of Finland’s full NATO membership was conducted by a panel of prominent diplomats and researchers, including former Swedish Ambassador to Helsinki Mats Bergquist, Chairman of the International Institute for Strategic Studies Francois Heisbourg, former Finnish Ambassador to Moscow Rene Nyberg and Director of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs Teija Tiilikainen.
The report said that Finland already belongs to NATO’s inner circle of partners and, “with the exception of air surveillance and control, Finland is close to the limit of what a non-member can achieve with the alliance.”
At the same time, Helsinki’s decision to enter would represent what the report described as a “sea of change”, which would transform Finland’s security policy overall, and its relations with Russia in particular.
“Membership would probably also lead to a serious crisis with Russia for an undefined period of time,” the report said.
The survey’s conclusions were echoed by Russian military experts who were quick to condemn the idea of Finland joining NATO.
In an interview with Yle, Igor Korotchenko, chief editor of the Russian magazine National Defense, said that full NATO membership would be a serious political blunder for Finland and be seen by Russia as a direct military threat.
“Finland would change from a neutral state into our enemy country,” Korotchenko pointed out.
Finland has historically been a neutral nation and has never been a member of NATO. Currently, Finland is a member of NATO’s affiliate program, known as the Partnership for Peace.
Early last month, Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto once again cited Russia’s “military activity” in the Baltic region as the primary reason for the Nordic countries’ need for closer cooperation with NATO.
At the same time, Niinisto stressed that Finland’s stability is predicated on national defense, Western integration as well as stable relations with Russia. Meanwhile, US Ambassador to Finland Charles Adams Jr. said that NATO’s door remains open for Finland.
Finland skirted clear of the Cold War by remaining independent of NATO; it is the only country in Europe which gained independence from the Russian Empire not to have adopted communism. Nowadays, it is among the most popular vacation destinations for Russian tourists; many travel to Helsinki from nearby St. Petersburg for shopping trips. The high-speed train Allegro provides passenger service between the two cities.