New Finnish Government Raises NATO Stakes

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb, March 5, 2015In a move that is certain to further irritate Moscow, Finland’s new center-right coalition has included the option of applying for NATO membership “at any time” in its government formation Joint Policy Position statement.

Moreover, in an unprecedented initiative, Prime Minister-elect Juha Sipilä’s administration is set to draft a foreign and security policy that will include a special segment to calculate the potential monetary costs and implications of full Finnish membership in NATO.

The Kremlin has expressed growing consternation over the deepening relationship between Finland, Sweden and NATO.

That Finland will retain the option to apply for NATO membership during the government’s four-year term has somewhat surprised the Kremlin, which believed that the inclusion of the nationalist and traditionally anti-NATO Finns Party in the new coalition would cool interest in joining the Western alliance.

However, the Finns constitute the junior partner in the government, which also includes the robustly pro-NATO National Coalition Party (NCP). The Center and the NCP will be the key players dictating defense and security policy going forward.

The “NATO option” and the new government’s decision to conduct a root and branch cost and effect analysis of NATO membership represent milestones in the evolution of Finland’s historically neutral foreign and security policies.

“The geopolitical landscape has changed in the Nordic and Baltic areas since Russia became involved in Ukraine. The important issue of whether Finland will remain non-aligned or join NATO is a question for the future and a possible referendum. It is important to maintain the option of NATO membership,” said Alexander Stubb, the NCP’s party chairman….

In a parallel initiative, the new government plans to amend legislation to permit military- and national security-run surveillance programs to collect signals intelligence outside Finnish borders and in communications passing through Finnish territory.

Unlike the earlier four-party conservative-left administration, all three partners in the new coalition support increasing the FAF’s annual budgets in 2016-2025, with a particular focus on strengthening the military’s procurement capability ahead of big ticket purchases, including the acquisition of a new fighter type and up to 64 aircraft to replace aging F/A-18 Hornets.

Image: Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb, March 5, 2015 (photo: NATO)