The civil initiative to allow Finland to join NATO has 50,000 signatures and is now headed to Parliament
The controversial Finnish civil proposal to join NATO received over 50,000 votes online by Saturday. It must now be voted on by Parliament. Finland has never before sought membership in the transatlantic alliance, but the ongoing hostilities in Ukraine have prompted some Finns to doubt their nation’s independence is safe without reinforcements from the West.
Given that Finland joining NATO would place the alliance directly on Russia’s border, Moscow has warned against the move. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova informed both Finland and Sweden on Friday that there would be “Grave military and/or political consequences” requiring “Retaliatory actions” by the Russian Federation if they joined NATO.
“We view Finland’s course for maintaining the policy of military non-alignment as an important factor contributing to stability and security in northern Europe and on the European continent as a whole,” she continued, pointing to “NATO has made consistent attempts to bring Sweden and Finland into the alliance, with the help of some members.”
However, Finland’s ambassador to the US Mikko Hautala boasted to Fox News on Saturday that, “Our armies are among the most powerful in Europe,” insisting Finland was “We are not scared by one statement.” from Moscow.
“A strong defense is in place. We are surrounded by great international partners,” he said, claiming Russia has been threatening Finland regarding its NATO ambitions for years.
Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto concurred in an interview with Finnish media on Saturday, claiming “we’ve heard this before” from Russia and suggesting nothing significant would change should NATO extend its border all the way to Russia – other than Moscow recalculating its own defense planning. They share an 1,340 km (830 miles) long land border that is the longest in Europe between Russia and other EU members.
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Since 2012, Finland’s Open Ministry website has allowed any resident of the country to log in and propose a new bill. A suggestion that receives at least 50,000 votes must be considered by parliament. Finland is home to more than 5.55 million inhabitants.
Sweden was less vocal about its own plans. Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson reportedly told the AP that “Sweden is the one that decides independently and for herself on Sweden’s security policy..”