From Jussi Rosendahl and Eero Vassinen, Reuters: Finland’s leading presidential candidate Sauli Niinisto said Monday he will not push for the country to join NATO if he is elected, despite his party’s enthusiasm for membership of the military alliance.
Many Finns fear that joining NATO could provoke neighboring Russia after decades of neutrality during and since the Cold War. However, leading politicians in Niinisto’s right-leaning National Coalition party have spoken in favor of membership for Finland, which fought the Soviet Union during World War Two.
Party members Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen and EU minister Alexander Stubb have both said joining NATO would strengthen Finland’s security.
"But not me," Niinisto told Reuters before the first round of the presidential election on January 22. "I have never directly proposed membership for Finland," he said in an interview.
Niinisto did say in a political survey in 2007 that Finland should join NATO but only if the alliance, of which the United States is a leading member, were more "European." (graphic:YLE)