Four rounds of the Finnish NATO debate


  • Tuomas Forsberg University of Helsinki


Finland, NATO, Public Opion, Foreign Policy, Security


Finland became a full member of NATO in April 2023. In this article, I will review four rounds of the Finnish NATO debate from the 1990s to the 2020s leading to the membership application in May 2022. There were some elements that distinguished the debates in each decade, but the arguments both in favour as well as against the membership remained basically the same. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine did not change the key reasons in favour of membership in NATO, namely added deterrence and protection to strengthen Finland’s security, but they became more compelling in the eyes of the public. Applying for membership in NATO was seen as too uncertain and the former Warsaw Pact members as a wrong reference group in the 1990s, the risk of being dragged into faraway wars was deemed as too great in the 2000s, and the policy of military non-alignment with a close NATO partnership was still seen as the best strategy to keep Russia at bay in the 2010s.