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People gather in support of Ukraine amid Russia's invasion and for world peace, at the Senate Square stairs in Helsinki, Finland, April 18 2022. Picture: LEHTIKUVA/REUTERS
People gather in support of Ukraine amid Russia's invasion and for world peace, at the Senate Square stairs in Helsinki, Finland, April 18 2022. Picture: LEHTIKUVA/REUTERS

Finland’s parliament started a debate on security policy on Wednesday that’s expected to pave the way to an application to join defence alliance Nato in reaction to neighbouring Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

The Social Democrats of Prime Minister Sanna Marin, the last major group in parliament to take a stand on the issue, signalled they would be ready to back a move to join the Nato if deemed necessary by MPs and the country’s leadership.

“It’s clear that Russia’s actions have brought Finland several steps closer to the necessity of military alignment,” said Antti Lindtman, Social Democrats’ parliamentary group leader. “We are ready to take decisions that best guarantee security for Finns.”

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February has spurred debate about a potential Nato entry in both Finland and neighbouring Sweden, which have long shunned membership to keep the military balance in the Baltic Sea area. Russia has repeatedly warned both with potential consequences, with President Vladimir Putin seeking guarantees against widening the bloc before the invasion of Ukraine.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has changed everything, says Finnish MP Jouni Ovaska, and its actions have altered the debate in Finland about joining Nato. Finland’s parliament began the security policy debate on Wednesday.

Russia has “given all its warnings, both publicly and through bilateral channels,” foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova told Russian state TV channel Rossiya 24 earlier on Wednesday.

Atte Harjanne, an MP for the Greens, said in Helsinki ahead of the debate: “Finns have lost all the remaining trust, the little bit of trust we had in the Russian regime.”

He said Russia is an aggressor state that does not care for human rights or security in Europe. “I don’t see a direct military threat from Russia, but of course the kind of regime it is, it’s the main threat in our foreign policy.

“Our military is relatively strong, and the Russian military is at the moment tied to Ukraine” and “the Finnish society is relatively resilient” in the face of any cyberattacks, he said.

Elina Valtonen, opposition National Coalition Party MP, said: “The war in Ukraine has showed everyone that we need the deterrence that Nato brings us, and also Finland, and Sweden of course, would be a very good addition to the alliance.

“The way Russia has acted in this horrible war has been an eye-opener for everybody,” said Valtonen.

Jouni Ovaska, MP for the Centre Party, said: Russia’s attack on February 24 on Ukraine “changed everything”.

“There’s already quite a big majority” that supports joining [Nato], he said. “As we see in the polls, the Finns have changed their views and ideas totally from what they have thought before about Nato, and so has the parliament.

“We know what Russia thinks about Nato, but we don’t let that make any difference to our decisions. We make our own decisions here from our own perspective.”

Bloomberg News. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

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