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5 Nov, 2017 21:02

Almost 60% of Finns oppose NATO membership – Gallup poll

Almost 60% of Finns oppose NATO membership – Gallup poll

Fifty-nine percent of Finland’s population do not want their country to become a NATO member, a new Gallup poll has revealed. And even if Sweden agreed to join NATO, which is seen as a factor which could sway public opinion in Finland, 52 percent would be still opposed.

In the poll, carried out on behalf of Helsingin Sanomat, the biggest daily newspaper in Finland, just 22 percent said that they’d like Finland to join the US-led military bloc, while 19 percent were undecided on the issue.

Those surveyed were also asked if they would back NATO entry if neighboring Sweden was a member. In such a scenario, the support for NATO membership increased to 33 percent, but those opposed were still a majority, at 52 percent.

Matti Pesu, a research fellow at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, told Helsingin Sanomat that Swedish NATO membership is seen by experts as one of the main factors, which may swing Finns’ mood towards the bloc. Considering this fact, the 11 percent increase in numbers of those supporting the bid in case of Swedish membership, revealed by the poll, was “surprisingly small," he said.

The Finns have been historically skeptical about NATO, with joining the bloc backed by just 15-16 percent in the early 2000s. The support for joining NATO peaked at 26 percent in 2014 when Russia was accused by Western countries of allegedly supporting the residents of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Lugansk regions who refused to acknowledge the coup-installed government in Kiev as legitimate. But the support was waned since then.

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The Finnish government said it’s not currently seeking NATO membership, but maintains the right to apply for it if the country’s security situation changes. Last week, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said that a referendum would be required if the country were to move ahead with an application to join NATO. “I am convinced that decision would require legitimacy, a wide acceptability... I would warn against making decisions where a significant part of citizens would get deep wounds,” Niinisto said as cited by Reuters.

As for Sweden, a poll carried out by Sifo for Svenska Dagbladet newspaper in July revealed that support for the country joining NATO has dropped from 41 percent in 2016 to 33 percent.

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Russia, which views NATO’s eastward expansion as a security threat, has repeatedly warned both Helsinki and Stockholm against joining the US-led bloc, saying that it would inevitably lead to countermeasures from Moscow.