Since the invasion of Ukraine, the Finns and their government seem determined to join NATO. The fragile balance that has existed since World War II between Russia’s weary neighbor and Finland appears to have collapsed. Two journalists from West France, Marc Olivier and Raphael Laurent, traveled to this Scandinavian country of 5 million people for a week to follow the pulse of the border population, visit mega shelters in the capital, Helsinki, meet Russian refugees and interview MPs who are currently debating possible membership in Parliament. in NATO. Here is the third episode of the series.
Three lawyer friends sitting in a chic bar in the Finnish capital celebrate their birthday. As with most of their compatriots, one topic dominates the talks: whether or not their country joins NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. “Putin was able to attack a sovereign country for no reason, we should join NATO, he will protect us, Eric, 40, thought that evening. His partner, Christian, does not share the same opinion. “Joining NATO will take time. The Russian president is paranoid. He will consider this project a provocation and declare war on us. It is risky to depart from our neutrality. It has proven itself.”
“The Winter War is a part of every Finnish family’s history”
According to Finnish media, Sauli Niinistö, the right-wing president elected in 2012, may announce by May 12 his official desire to join NATO. This will open an unprecedented page in the history of this country of 5.5 million people.
If this Scandinavian nation has been independent since December 6, 1917, after being under the control of the Russian Empire for more than a century, then the Winter War (1939-1940) is indeed the founding myth of the Finnish nation.
episode 1 : Report. On the Russian border, the Finns were worried about the situation in Ukraine
Episode 2: In Finland, under Helsinki, a second capital … for bunkers
Episode 4: Words from the Russians in Finland: “My country has become the fascist regime that claims to be fighting”
On November 30, 1939, the Red Army launched 450,000 men against tiny Finland, which rejected Moscow’s territorial demands. But contrary to Stalin’s expectations, the Finnish mobile units defeated the Soviet columns.
Despite resistance, an unfavorable peace treaty for Finland was signed on March 12, 1940. Finland was stripped of 10% of its territory and 20% of its industrial potential. The Winter War is part of the history of every Finnish family, Elena Valtonen, a right-wing lawmaker and deputy chair of the National Coalition Party, explains. That is why the situation in Ukraine affects us in particular. »
The war in Ukraine affects Finnish neutrality
With the Cold War, Finland then adopted a cautious policy so as not to upset Moscow. In the spring of 1948, Helsinki signed a “treaty of friendship” and cooperation with Moscow. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Finland logically established itself in the West and joined the European Union in 1995, while opting to remain outside NATO. Like Sweden, the country is officially nonaligned, despite being coalition partners. A few weeks ago, public opinion was overwhelmingly against joining NATO. But the war in Ukraine changed the situation.
The invasion of Ukraine demonstrated how aggressive and unpredictable Russia can be. Analyzes Ante Lindtmann, Deputy and Chairman of the Parliamentary Group of the Social Democratic Party, the party of Prime Minister Sanna Marin. Polls show how profound the change is. A few months ago, 20% of Finns were in favor of membership, today it is more than 65% according to opinion polls. Russia made a historical mistake, this invasion united the Ukrainian people and the European Union and changed the Finns’ way of thinking about NATO. »
Quick registration “to reduce risks”
In Parliament, too, a clear majority emerged with the reversal of many parties that had been opposed to membership until now. This is the case of the Left Alliance, a member of the government coalition. Our historical party against, Recognizes Representative Jose Saramo. Russia has problems with all of its borders except ours and we wanted to keep it that way. But attacking a sovereign state is already a red line. If we join NATO, we have to do it together, with Sweden. »
The parliamentary debate, which began on April 27, will issue its verdict soon. Finland is likely to formally present its candidacy at the important NATO summit scheduled for June 29-30 in Madrid. One question, however, worries MPs. How long will this procedure take? “It’s been a year so far, Ante Lindtmann, who is also a member of Parliament’s Defense Committee, continues. But the situation is different, and if we make this choice, it will have to be made as quickly as possible to reduce the risks. »