Neutrality under review in aftermath of election in Finland

The rethink comes in wake of growing tensions throughout the Baltic – Russia’s bullying in the Ukraine and numerous “pinprick” provocations

Finland last week saw a new three-party government put together in which former PM Alex Stubb of the conservative Kokoomus party stepped sideways into the finance ministry to be succeeded by Centre Party leader Juha Sipilä. And, perhaps ominously for harmony in the councils of the EU and for the Greeks, Timo Soini, leader of the populist Eurosceptical True Finns party, was appointed foreign and Europe minister.

From an Irish perspective, however, the government's tentative rapprochement with Nato is of particular interest in terms of the evolution of fellow member-states security policy. EU neutrals, Ireland, Sweden, Finland and Austria, have helped define EU security policy which has so far avoided Nato-like mutual defence commitments – Article 5 defines an attack on one as an attack on all. They maintain a relationship with Nato through the Partnership for Peace programme and engagement in some common missions.

Stubb has been a strong adherent of Finnish Nato membership and the new government, while remaining non-aligned, is to commission a report on the effects of joining the alliance. Finland, which has a 1,324-km border with Russia, has a policy of armed neutrality, and the universal conscription – every Finn spend at least a year in Army service and a lifetime in the reserves – remains popular. Currently over half the population routinely say “no” in polls to Nato membership, although some suggest that they would back their leaders if they made a call to join.

The rethink comes in the wake of growing tensions throughout the Baltic. Russia’s bullying in the Ukraine and numerous “pinprick” provocations, like military overflights, in the Baltic have cause widespread genuine alarm in Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, perhaps not sufficiently appreciated in Ireland,. They are Nato members and have persuaded the alliance to establish a rapid reaction force to deploy in them if threatened.


Its Baltic neighbours would welcome Finnish engagement in Nato, an organisation that they see very differently from the “imperialist warmonger” caricature which prevails in some circles in Ireland.