Even if Finland possesses a sizeable military strength and reservists, less than half of the population is convinced that the country could defend itself against a large military onslaught alone, a fresh survey by the think-tank Finnish Business and Policy Forum (EVA) found.
According to respondents, since the start of the war in Ukraine their belief that Russia could attack their country this year has tripled to 19%. By 2027, 30% of the 2,800 Finns taking part in the survey believe the risk of Russian aggression will increase.
When asked about Finland joining NATO, 76% of those surveyed said they support a decision to apply for membership as they believe this would decrease the probability of Russian military aggression this year.
But President Sauli Niinistö and Prime Minister Sanna Marin stating that Finland should apply to NATO as soon as possible on Thursday, received a swift response from Moscow.
Dmitry Peskov, the press secretary of President Vladimir Putin, described Finland joining NATO as a “threat”. “Of course, all this will become elements for a special analysis and development of the necessary measures in order to balance the situation and ensure our security,” he said, according to news agency TASS.
The Russian foreign ministry stated, “there will be serious military and political consequences”.
Until recently, Finnish leaders saw NATO membership as an unnecessary provocation of Russia, but public support for membership has also increased since the outbreak of war.
Helsinki and Stockholm signed agreements confirming mutual security assurances with the UK just before the announcement.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Thursday promised “full support” from Germany for Finland’s bid to join NATO, while French President Emmanuel Macron said such a move should be made “without delay”.
In Brussels, the European Commission took a more neutral stance, saying it is Finland’s sovereign right to apply for NATO membership.