British soldiers took part in the largest winter drill organised as part of the enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup of Nato in Estonia on 6 February 2022. (Alain Jocard – Lehtikuva)

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IF THE POLITICAL LEADERSHIP of Finland declared that Nato membership is in the best interests of the country, 43 per cent of the public would be in favour of the membership, reveals a survey commissioned by Helsingin Sanomat.

More than a quarter (27%) of the respondents would oppose and 30 per cent would remain uncertain about joining.

The results indicate that the views of the political leadership, namely the president and prime minister, have a significant impact on public views about the defence alliance. A survey the newspaper commissioned last month, where the position of the political leadership was not specified, measured support for the membership at 28 per cent, the highest reading since the first edition of the survey in 2002.

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Sakari Nurmela, a research director at Kantar TNS, on Tuesday reminded the newspaper that the membership is a broad issue that can be difficult to conceptualise.

“It’s therefore completely natural that a growing number of people adopt a favourable position toward Nato if political decision-makers, meaning the president and prime minister, view that this is a good thing for us,” he explained.

The survey also included a multiple-choice question about arguments for and against membership in Nato.

Almost a half (46%) of the respondents identified the collective defence principle and deterrent effect as pertinent arguments for joining. Over a third (35%) viewed that the membership would help to secure the country’s international position and 27 per cent that the membership would consolidate the country’s position relative to Russia.

The most common argument against the membership, selected by 57 per cent of the respondents, its detrimental impact on relations between Finland and Russia. Nearly a half (47%) of the respondents identified the possibility that Finnish troops would have to participate in armed conflicts overseas as an argument against joining Nato.

Finns see both possibilities and risks in the membership, summarised Nurmela.

“What stands out the most from the results is the security Nato would provide for a rainy day and [concerns about] how things would be handled with Russia. It’s something that’s on people’s minds,” he viewed. “When you share a border and history, it’ll definitely show. It’s clear that people want to maintain a good rapport.”

Supporters of the National Coalition had, unsurprisingly, the most positive views about the matter: two-thirds of them said they would support the membership in the event that it was supported also by the political leadership. Supporters of the Left Alliance had the most reservations, with only a fifth of them indicating they would be in favour of joining.

Nurmela viewed that in addition to the two extremes, a large share of the public have a pragmatic stance on the issue.

“Also the Finns Party has quite a few supporters who are opposed to the issue on principle,” he told. “Then there are the others who may weigh up the situation from their own viewpoints. It may be typical of them to think that there are factors that speak for and factors that speak against the membership.”

Kantar TNS interviewed 1,066 people for the survey between 4 and 9 February.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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