by WorldTribune Staff, August 28, 2018
Finland has indicated that it could join NATO, a move that would enrage Russia which would consider it an encroachment on its sphere of influence, a report said.
President Sauli Niinisto on Aug. 25 said that Finland’s NATO membership is a possibility, Yle Uutiset television reported.
Traditionally neutral Finland and Sweden have increased military cooperation with NATO in recent years. The alliance has held joint exercises with both countries.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said of NATO’s overtures to Finland and Sweden: “I emphasize that these kinds of steps by our western colleagues lead to the destruction of the current security system, increase mistrust and force us to take counter-measures.”
Shoigu also mentioned an agreement signed in Washington in May between Finnish, Swedish and U.S. defense ministers to ease cooperation with NATO.
“The deal signed in May allows these countries to participate fully in NATO exercises and to use NATO forces,” said Shoigu. “In turn NATO has been granted full, unobstructed access to these countries’ airspace and territorial waters.”
Finland’s defense policy “has been founded on the idea of keeping the ‘NATO option’ open, without formally applying to join the alliance,” the Yle Uutiset report said. “Politicians have also said they would move with Sweden, as they did in joining the European Union in the mid-90s, rather than joining without the western neighbor.”