Sovereignty Un-Stifled

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Finlandization has been proposed as a final status for Ukraine after Russia concludes its ongoing brutal invasion. But the Finns might counsel against it.

The Finns are themselves considering joining NATO rather than continuing to accept what the New York Times described as the “stifled sovereignty” of Finlandization – a term that signifies independence on the condition of accepting Russian foreign and economic policies, as Finland did during the Cold War.

In the past, Finns likely didn’t see much reason to antagonize Russia. Now, with allegations of Russian troops perpetrating atrocities in Ukraine, as Human Rights Watch explained, they appear to think they have very little to lose.

A recent poll found that, for the first time, around 60 percent of Finns want their country to join NATO, a huge bump compared with past years, Business Insider reported. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, meanwhile, said that the alliance would be happy to have them.

Experts who spoke to the Financial Times described the shift as “radical.” Finland is now neutral. But it joined the European Union in 1995, a clear signal that it wanted to embrace Western European political and economic culture. To be safe, however, since then, the country has invested heavily in defense to deter Russian aggression.

The logic behind the change is clear. Russian President Vladimir Putin used the pretext of a feared NATO expansion to justify the invasion of Ukraine, even though nobody believed it was on the brink of joining the alliance. If those are the consequences for dithering, why should Finland wait? In other words, Putin’s ploy backfired, CNN wrote.

“Russia is ready to take bigger risks, as we can see in Ukraine, bigger risks also for its own security,” Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told the Associated Press. “We can also see that Russia is capable of gathering more than 100,000 men against just one country, even without touching its reserves.”

Finnish citizens have collected a total of 100,000 signatures for petitions that call for a referendum on NATO membership and call on lawmakers to discuss the issue in parliament, Time wrote. Under public pressure, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin has said she expected a decision in the next few months.

In response, the BBC noted, Russia warned that NATO membership would further destabilize Europe.

Officials now expect Russia to launch a misinformation campaign to sway public opinion against the idea, Reuters reported. Others worry that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, traditionally a Russian ally whose Fidesz political party won another majority recently, could somehow stymie Finnish pro-NATO efforts, Euractiv added.

The Finns don’t seem to care. If Russian tanks roll on Helsinki, they want allies to come to their aid fast.

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