Finland: With Stubb to NATO?

Alexander Stubb is set to become a new Finnish PM and he said: We have to aim at maximising Finland’s national security and being part of decision-making, and that happens best as a NATO member. So would you say that he will try to get Finland closer to NATO membership and can he be successful or not, and why? Read few comments.

Tuomas Forsberg, Professor of International Relations, University of Tampere

Stubb would bring Finland to NATO, if that only were politically possible. He is somewhat more determined and more openly for NATO than the previous prime minister Katainen, but the conservative party has beem explicitly for Finland’s membershop in NATO since mid-2000s. The problem is that none of the other bigger parties are for NATO membership and there is and will be coalition government with at least two big parties (the Swedish speaking party also is for NATO membership, the Greens are leaning, but that is not enough).

Social democrats are not likely to change their view, the Center Party is also against but they want to keep the option open, as do the populist True Finns. The President does not want to move ahead, though he is from the Conservatives he is not openly in favour of membership. It is unclear how direct the threat to Finland should be that the other parties were willing to “use” the option and apply NATO membership. The most likely trigger would be that Sweden simultaneously decided for NATO membership.

Otherwise changes in the public opinion have been rather marginal with less than 30 per cent in favour of memberhship. Yet should the government and the president propose memnbeship in NATO, there would most likely be a majority of public opinion behind it which is needed because the political leaders have promised to organise a referendum, should Finland apply membership.

Pauli Järvenpää, Senior Research Fellow, International Centre for Defense Studies

Alexander Stubb is one of the very few top politicians who has openly said he supports membership in NATO for Finland. Of course he knows that there needs to be popular support for the issue in Finland, and right now only about 30 % of the Finnish population is in support of the membership. Also, the Goverment will have to have a consensus on the matter with the President, and President Sauli Niinistö has been lukewarm, if notoutright hostile to the idea of membership.

What many of us expect is that the next Finnish Government will have the goal of membership in NATO written into its Government program. The present Government, which Stubb will be Prime Minister for until the parliamentary elections in April 2015, has its own program and that program will not be changed. But if the Conservative Party, led by Stubb, will be the largest party in the Government established after the 2015 elections, then we might see the NATO membership written into the Government program as the Government’s goal in 2015-19.

If this happens, it will be great for the NATO debate in Finland. In opinion polls, the majority of the people (54 %) are saying that they support membership in NATO if the Government has decided to seek for it. What is great about Stubb is that he really wants the issue brought up and debated. And he believes, with many of us, that the Finnish membership of NATO would be good for Finland, and also good for regional stability and security.

Charly Salonius-Pasternak, Senior Research Fellow, The Global Security research programme, The Finnish Institute of International Affairs

The current gov’t program forbids any preparations re NATO membership, so unless the gov’t is broken up, nothing he can do on that front. What he can do is speak up about security policy and thereby NATO…then after the next scheduled elections in spring 2015 we’ll see.

Hannu Nurmi, Professor of Political Science, University of Turku

There is no doubt that Mr Stubb will try to get Finland into NATO as a full member. He will not be able to do it under the present parliamentary term (which ends next spring) since application would contradict the government agreement reached by the leaders of the present coalition cabinet. After the election Mr Stubb may well be again the PM and if this is the case the membership application will most likely not be excluded in the government agreement. But of course all this depends on the outcome of the forthcoming parliamentary election.

Mikko Mattila, Professor of Political Science, Department of Political and Economic Studies, University of Helsinki

Yes, Stubb is a NATO supporter and he has sais that Finland should join it.However, there is a lot of public opposition to the NATO membership in Finland and steering Finland towards that goal is a difficult task.

One must also remember that Stubb’s time as PM is limited. We have parliamentary elections in April 2015 and I believe that Stubb’s primary goal is to win those elections. If he can do that he can then continue as the Prime Minister. Then he could probably start working towards closer ties with Finland and NATO. So it will be interesting to see if the NATO question will be a big issue in next spring’s election campaigns.

Nicholas AylottSenior Lecturer in Political Science, School of Social Sciences, Södertörn University

I think it would be very unlikely that Finland would join NATO without agreement with Sweden to do the same. And the issue of Swedish NATO membership is dormant right now.

Majorities in favour of NATO membership probably exist in all four centre-right government parties here. But the biggest of them, the Moderates, the party of the prime minister, is not interested in pushing such a controversial issue. They have given the opposition Social Democrats a de facto veto.

The Social Democrats will almost certainly be back in power after September’s election. They won’t want to alienate their likely partners, the Greens and the Left Party, with talk of a military alliance – whatever is happening to the east. So if a Finnish government really wanted to push the issue, it would have to do so without Swedish approval and co-ordination. And that, as I say, is possible but unlikely.

Leo Michel, Distinguished Research Fellow, Institute for National Strategic Studies

It does appear that Russian actions involving Ukraine have stimulated a more open discussion of possible Finnish accession to NATO, at least among the “political class.”  Earlier this month, the outgoing Prime Minister, Jyrki Katainen,   stated: “My personal opinion is that Finland should belong to NATO.  It would strengthen Finland’s position.   But I’m in the minority.”  I don’t think you would have heard such open statements a few years ago.  Interestingly, Swedish officials and strategists, and some politicians, also seem more willing to openly discuss the possibility of membership.

That said, it remains difficult to predict how and when internal developments in both countries would lead to a firm government decision to seek membership, and whether those governments would feel it necessary to hold a national referendum on the question.  Personally, I don’t believe any membership decision would be taken before the Swedish elections this September and Finnish elections next spring. Finally, while Russian actions involving Ukraine certainly have had their effect, I think many of the underlying questions raised in my February 2011 paper on this subject remain relevant.

One Response

  1. […] Pauli Järvenpää, ricercatore dell’International Centre for Defense Studies, ha dichiarato alla Slovak Daily Pravda che “se il partito conservatore di Stubb sarà il primo partito dopo le elezioni dell’aprile 2015, potremmo aspettarci di vedere l’adesione alla Nato all’interno del prossimo accordo di coalizione di governo per il 2015-19”. Stubb sa che una mossa del genere ha bisogno di un forte sostegno popolare. Attualmente, solo, il 30% dei finlandesi è d’accordo con l’ingresso nella NATO, ma il 54% si dice d’accordo se diventasse un’obiettivo del governo. […]

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