Possible NATO membership campaign gathers momentum

According to the law, the initiative must now enter the parliamentary agenda. Whether the current parliament will find time to discuss it remains to be seen and general elections will take place in April 2023. [Shutterstock / sashk0]

In Finland and Sweden, Russian aggression in Ukraine is putting wind in the sails of those in favour of NATO membership.

In Finland, a citizens’ initiative calling for a referendum on NATO membership gathered the needed 50,000 signatures in four days. The initiative’s organisers pointed to the need to enhance Finland’s security guarantees and increase its ability to defend itself.

According to the law, the initiative must now enter the parliamentary agenda. Whether the current parliament will find time to discuss it remains to be seen and general elections will take place in April 2023.

In Sweden, a survey organised on Thursday and Friday, after the start of the Russian attack on Ukraine, showed a slight jump in support of NATO membership. In the Swedish Television survey, 41% of respondents favoured joining NATO, while 35% were against it.

Compared to the last survey in January, the percentage of those in favour increased by 4%. The percentage of those against remained the same, but the share of those uncertain of their opinion dropped by 4%. The strongest membership supporters are voters of the liberal-conservative Moderate Party currently topping opinion polls.

Reactions to the comment made by Maria Zakharova, the Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman, that Finland and Sweden joining NATO would have political and military consequences have been calm and muted.

In Finland, President Sauli Niinistö and Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto described the Zakharova statement as containing nothing new.

Meanwhile, Swedish PM Magdalena Andersson said that Sweden independently makes decisions on its security policy alignments.

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