Helsinki has not been neutral for a long time, EU Commissioner for International Partnerships Jutta Urpilainen has said
Helsinki would always join NATO eventually, as it has become closely intertwined with the West over the years, EU Commissioner for International Partnerships Jutta Urpilainen – who hails from Finland – told Germany’s RND media group on Monday.
The Nordic nation had maintained a neutral status since the end of World War II. However, it officially submitted a bid to join the US-led military bloc on May 18.
Urpilainen, who headed the Finnish Ministry of Finance between 2011 and 2014, believes that her country’s neutrality gradually eroded during the intervening period.
“Finland has not been really neutral. Over the years, we have become more and more integrated in the West,” she said. After Finland joined the EU in 1995, joining NATO was “a natural next step”, according to the EU official.
Urpilainen also said that the decision to join the military alliance had been “well thought out and well prepared”, as the issue was discussed at all levels down to individual municipalities.
“Before Russia attacked [Ukraine], most thought they could be good neighbors with Russia. Only about 20% of Finns were in favor of joining NATO. Now over 70% are in favor “, the EU Commissioner noted, adding that the atmosphere in the country had changed almost overnight.
Now the general opinion is that joining the military bloc would strengthen Finland’s position, Urpilainen said, adding that it was important for Helsinki that its neighbors in Sweden had decided to join NATO as well.
Finland, which shares a 1,340 km (832 km) land border with Russia and fought a war against the Soviet Union in 1939, has maintained its military neutrality since the end of World War II. Sweden has remained militarily neutral since 1814, a generation after the last of its costly battles with Russia. Residents of both countries have historically opposed joining NATO, but public opinion changed sharply after Russia launched its military operation against Ukraine in February.
Moscow has criticized the two nations’ decisions, pointing to the growing threat to its western borders stemming from continuous NATO expansion to the east. Last week, Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said Russia would form 12 new military units in its western region to address this growing threat.
The two Nordic nations submitted their bids earlier in May, but were met by opposition from Turkey, a large NATO nation, which claims that Sweden and Finland both house people they consider terrorists, namely members of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). .