17:11 GMT07 April 2020
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    Despite the resurgence of the perennial NATO debate prior to the upcoming presidential election, the Finns' support for joining the alliance is waning. By contrast, their loyalty to the EU is getting stronger.

    The Finns have become less keen on joining NATO, while expressing more anxiety over terrorism threats, a fresh opinion poll commissioned by the Advisory Board for Defense Information, a parliamentary committee focusing on security policy and carried out by Taloustutkimus, has shown.

    Today, only 22 percent of Finns would welcome joining the North Atlantic Treaty, which indicates a dip in NATO-positive attitudes compared with the previous year, when 25 percent deemed it worthwhile, national broadcaster Yle reported.

    This is in line with both a recent poll by the Helsingin Sanomat daily, in which 59 percent of Finns rejected the option of joining NATO and the Defense Ministry's figures, according to which the Finnish resistance to NATO has hovered between 60 and 70 percent during the past decade.

    The recent results also indicate that the spike in pro-NATO rhetoric by columnists and defense experts, which always occurs before elections, had no marked influence on Finns. Fittingly, the Finns' attitudes are reflected in the presidential race, where only one candidate (Nils Torvalds of the Swedish People's Party, currently polling marginal figures) openly supports joining the alliance.

    Finance Minister Petteri Orpo, however, argued that joining NATO would improve Finland's security, but was unlikely to happen any time soon for lack of wider support.

    "Why do the ruling classes arms themselves and join NATO, while ordinary people are less eager? NATO gives status, power and money," a researcher, debater and former lecturer at the University of Helsinki, Leif Höckerstedt, wrote in his opinion piece for the Hufvudstadbladet daily, arguing that increased arms acquisitions benefit a complex structure of military men, politicians, researchers and arms manufacturers.

    Höckerstedt expressed reservations about the popular belief that NATO would function as a shield against, not least, Russia, which was suggested by, among others, Finland's former ambassador to Russia, Hannu Himanen.

    "Whichever idiotic action the US embarks upon in the world, Finland will have to follow suit, not least in the Middle East," Höckerstedt wrote in his opinion piece titled "NATO is not forever."

    On the other hand, though, the Finns' faith in the European Union only grows stronger, despite the EU's debt crisis and the ongoing Brexit drama. More than half of the interviewees (58 percent) were supportive of the EU, which is a marked increase compared with the previous year (45 percent). According to the poll, 60 percent of the respondents thought the EU benefited Finnish national security as an institution (again up from 58 percent).

    The recent Taloustutkimus survey also revealed that the global migrant crisis (83 percent, down from 85 percent last year), terrorism (81 percent, up from 75 percent last year) and climate change (75 percent, up from 71 last year) were the problems that concerned the Finns the most.


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    terrorism, EU, NATO, Nils Torvalds, Scandinavia, Russia, Finland
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