Finns Happy to Sit on the Fence: Yes to US Exercises but No to NATO

© Flickr / U.S. Pacific CommandU.S. Air Force F-15 Eagle tactical fighter jet
U.S. Air Force F-15 Eagle tactical fighter jet - Sputnik International
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Whereas a majority of Finns maintain a chilly relation to NATO membership, most have a surprisingly positive attitude about the joint military exercises with the US, as well as Washington's "defensive" expansion in Europe, a recent poll shows.

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The poll conducted by the pollster Taloustutkimus on behalf of the Tampere-based daily Aamulehti found that a huge 69 percent of Finns think joint air exercises with US forces are beneficial to Finland's security, compared to only 18 percent who believe them to be detrimental to the national interest.

Aamulehti then proceeded to refer to a recent Yle survey, conducted by the same Taloustutkimus, that revealed that 55 percent of Finns are opposed to NATO membership, compared to just 22 percent in favor.

Taloustutkimus research chief Juho Rahkonen told Aamulehti he considered the results surprising. According to him, this could reflect the fact that American fighter planes have already been deployed in Finland. It is easier to approve of concrete facts than to support a general remote idea belonging to the far future, he argued.

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Remarkably, Rahkonen did not interpret the poll's findings as an indication of growing public support for NATO membership, setting them aside as "two completely different issues."

The Finns' more than cheerful attitude towards the US military expansion reflects the Finnish government's and the mainstream media's unrelenting smear campaign against "aggressive" Russia, which portrays Moscow as a chief source of danger in the Baltic region and cows fellow Finns into embracing NATO amid a possible Russian invasion. However, the popular "no" to NATO expansion mirrors the Finns' increasing skepticism against participating in the alliance's numerous military operations abroad.

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At present, the "non-aligned" Finland and its western neighbor Sweden are already part of NATO in all but name. They conduct military exercises with NATO, allow their troops to be part of NATO's rapid-reaction force, and contributed to NATO's campaign in the Middle East.

For now, six McDonnell Douglas F-15C Eagles and 150 servicemen from the US Oregon Air National Guard are taking part in the joint air exercises, organized by Karelian Air Command in eastern Finland. Units of the Oregon Air National Guard have previously been deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other missions.

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