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By Lord Watson of Wyre Forest
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Russia's demand to limit Nato expansion is totally unacceptable to Finland

Finland has declared its interest in joining Nato

4 min read

With threatening rhetoric, Russia seeks to prevent others from interfering with its actions, says Jukka Siukosaari, Ambassador of Finland to the UK.

On 17 May, Finland declared its interest in joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato). Since the Second World War, my country has followed a policy of neutrality and, after our accession to the European Union, of military non-alignment. The decision to seek Nato membership is a result of a fundamental shift in public opinion.

After a thorough and open democratic process, the parliament of Finland, Eduskunta, voted in support of the application with an overwhelming majority. In total, 188 out of 200 members of parliament favour the accession. Why did this happen? Part of the answer is Russia, but Nato membership is also a logical conclusion of Finland’s integration with western security political structures.

The Finns have lived next to Russia for centuries and it will remain our neighbour. However, as Russia’s declared goal now is to change the European security order, the bilateral relationship has fundamentally altered. Late last year, Russia demanded Nato refrain from any further enlargement. For Finland, that demand – which seeks to restrict the freedom of our foreign and security policy choices – is totally unacceptable.

On 24 February, Russia launched a military offensive against Ukraine. The war that President Vladimir Putin started jeopardises the security and stability of Europe. The aggression blatantly violates international law and Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Russia’s attack is a continuation of its actions in Georgia and in eastern Ukraine and Crimea, but the scale and sheer brutality of the aggression is different from before.

When attacked, Ukraine was able to defend itself successfully, and Russia had to alter its goal of occupying the country and changing the government in Kiev. However, Russia’s objective remains to undermine Ukraine’s sovereignty and to seize its integration to the west. The war shows that, for Russia, use of extensive military force against its neighbours is an instrument to pursue foreign policy goals.

Russia has shown that it can use chemical weapons and has repeatedly highlighted its preparedness to use nuclear weapons. With threatening rhetoric, Russia seeks to prevent others from interfering with its actions.

At this moment, the military situation in Finland’s neighbourhood is stable, and we are not facing a direct threat at our borders. However, we need to prepare for a situation where military force is used against us. For decades, our strong national defence was the threshold we counted on to keep invaders away. We have integrated with Nordic and European social and economic co-operation structures ever since the 1950s. Now we seek to improve and maximise Finland’s security by joining a strong defence alliance.

The security situation in Europe is more difficult to predict than at any time since the cold war. Russia’s actions have shown the confines of a policy of interdependence based on economic interaction. Jointly agreed international commitments and principles of European security did not prevent war in Europe. Today it is difficult, if not impossible, to trust Russia.

Nato membership would strengthen the security of Finland. As a capable, democratic and reliable country, Finland would strengthen the entire defence alliance, including in relation to terrorism and new types of threats.

As always, we take our international treaty commitments seriously and wish to listen to all our allies and respond to their concerns.

The result of our accession would be a protected Finland that is part of a stable, strong and responsible Nordic region. We will both receive protection and help protect others in the Baltic Sea area and Europe. Once we join the alliance, Finland’s defence capabilities – as well as our resilience and technology expertise – will strengthen Nato’s collective defence throughout its territory.

Jukka Siukosaari is the Ambassador of Finland to the UK

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