Finland's people now strongly back joining NATO, poll says, a massive political shift that would enrage Russia
A majority of people in Finland now support the country joining NATO, a new poll found.
The surge followed Ukraine being invaded by Russia, with which Finland also shares a border.
Russia preemptively warned of "serious military and political consequences" if Finland joined NATO.
A survey of people in Finland found that a majority wanted the country to join NATO after Russia invaded Ukraine.
The survey by the Finnish Business and Policy Forum Eva think tank found that 60% of people supported Finland joining NATO, a massive jump from previous years. Eva polled 2,074 people between March 4 and March 15.
Finland shares a long border with Russia and was once part of the Russian Empire. After it gained independence, it was invaded by the Soviet Union in 1939 but fought back and was not defeated.
The country has for decades maintained a careful balance between Russia and Western countries, which involved avoiding NATO membership.
At the time of the last Eva survey in 2021, most Finns seemed to support that position, with only 34% backing NATO membership.
But Russia's invasion of Ukraine, another non-NATO country, prompted a change — almost doubling support for NATO membership.
Ilkka Haavisto, the research manager at Eva, said of the results: "Russia has shown that it does not respect the integrity of its neighbors.
"The war in Ukraine has concretely shown what the horrors of a defensive war on Finland's own territory would be and made it clear that NATO countries cannot use their military forces to help defend a nonaligned country."
Russia has threatened Finland should it decide to pursue membership.
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Earlier this month, an official with the Russian foreign ministry warned of "serious military and political consequences" if Finland or its neighbor Sweden tried to join.
Russian President Vladimir Putin used the possibility of NATO expanding further eastward as a reason for his invasion of Ukraine. He framed the invasion as an act of self-defense against the alliance's growth.
Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said on Sunday that applying for NATO membership would come with the "major risk" of escalation in Europe, but he said the country wanted to find ways to improve its security situation.
Sanna Marin, Finland's prime minister, said earlier this month that the country's politicians would have a conversation about NATO membership: "We're moving quickly, although these discussions will be thorough."
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