Finland's parliament will discuss a petition on Tuesday calling on the country to join NATO, after a new survey found that, for the first time, a majority of Finns support joining the military alliance. The discussion comes as Russia's invasion of Ukraine enters its sixth day.
The survey by the Finnish Yleisradio Oy (Yle) found that 53% of Finns support joining NATO, while only 28% are against doing so. The percentage of Finns supporting such a move has risen 34% since 2017, when only 19% were in favor, according to Yle.
The survey also found that support for joining NATO would rise to 66% of Finns, if Sweden were to also join the military alliance. A recent survey by the Swedish Novus company found that, for the first time, more Swedes are for joining NATO than against it, with 41% for and 35% against.
The Finnish parliament will discuss a citizens' initiative which has gotten over 72,000 signatures calling on the parliament to hold a referendum on joining NATO. The initiative was first published on February 21. In Finland, the parliament is required to consider an initiative if it receives over 50,000 signatures.
Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin tweeted on Monday that while the parliament would be discussing the citizens' initiative, it would not be having a broader discussion on military alliances or non-alignment. Marin said on Monday that a parliamentary debate will be held at some point on military alliances, according to Yle.
Finland decided this week to provide thousands of assault rifles, anti-tank weapons, ammunition, helmets, vests and combat supplies to Ukraine.
Leader of the Finnish Centre Party and Finance Minister Annika Saarikko stated that the survey is a "significant and historic change," adding that decisions related to Finland's defense must be made coolly and peacefully, according to Yle.
Petteri Orpo, chairman of the National Coalition Party, stated that now is the time to start preparing the path to apply quickly for NATO membership, adding that such a move would increase the country's security.
On Friday, Russia warned neighboring Finland of "serious military and political" repercussions if the Scandinavian nation opts to join NATO following the invasion of Ukraine.
Finland's president Sauli Niinisto ruled out the possibility of Finland reacting to the events by immediately applying for NATO membership.
In Finland, "we are now seeing quick comments for applying today and joining tomorrow," he said. "These sensitive reactions are understandable but cannot really work in the real world."
Tal Spungin contributed to this report.