In the wake of Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine, Finnish support for NATO membership surged to a record high on Monday, according to a survey commissioned by Yle, Finland’s public broadcaster.
62% of respondents are in favour of joining the military alliance while just 16% are opposed; 21% do not know. Just two weeks ago, only 52% of respondents favoured joining the alliance.
Despite widespread support, the Finnish government announced it has no immediate plans for membership – as is the case in neighbouring Sweden.
Finland has the EU’s largest land border with Russia and has remained non-aligned since the Cold War for fears of provoking Russia. This weekend, Moscow threatened Helsinki and Stockholm with retaliatory measures if they join the alliance.
Finnish President Sauli Niinistö urged his compatriots to keep a “cool head” during the crisis. He said that a report on the advantages and disadvantages of joining NATO is being prepared by the Finnish Defence Ministry and the decision will be up to the Finnish Parliament.
Public opinion in Sweden has also swung towards a majority favouring NATO membership. Although Sweden and Finland are officially non-aligned countries, they have both been NATO partners since the mid-1990s, turning their backs on complete neutrality. 1,378 adults took part in the Finnish survey online from 9 to 11 March.
By contrast, Denmark and Norway are both NATO members. The war in Ukraine recently prompted Denmark to increase its defence budget to eventually reach 2% of GDP.
Belgium has been a NATO member since 1949 and is one of the alliance’s founding members.