Sunday, June 26, 2022

Close neighbor to Russia, Finland is considering joining NATO

Finland has been neutral for decades, but growing talk of joining NATO has angered the neighboring country of Russia.

Moscow warned this weekend of “political and military consequences” if Finland signs on to the military pact, while Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said Russian President Vladimir Putin has dropped his mask and shown the cold face of war.

“I hope that during this meeting and discussion we can strengthen relationship,” Niinisto said during a meeting with US President Joe Biden on March 4 to discuss ongoing defense and sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

Fear of invasion in Finland has powered a dramatic surge in favor of NATO membership among the populace.

Two citizens who spoke to CTV News said they had collected 50,000 signatures requesting for the option to be considered, meaning that the government will have to debate the issue.

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There have also been large protests against Putin in Helsinki, a seismic shift in a country that shares a 1,340-kilometre border with Russia, and for decades has shared business and cultural ties.

Eilina Gusatinsky, who was born in Moscow to a Finnish mother, runs a foundation in Finland helping Russian speakers — and there are many. According to Statistics Finland, the largest foreign-language group in Finland is Russian speakers.

“I hope the world understands,” she said.

Now, she has opened her home Ukrainian refugees. One of whom is 13-year-old Polina, away from schoolmates and from the life she knew for the first time.

“I am grateful that I am here, but I really hope that I will go back to my home,” she said.

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Her mother Hannah says she will kiss the ground when she returns to Ukraine.

“No matter where you are, Ukraine is in here,” she said, touching her chest. “It’s your identity.”

But she is also comforted now by the support of many in Finland, saying she never expected it.

“The very fact that the Ukrainian flag is put on the central railway station in Helsinki, it’s just an amazing, unbelievable thing, it really gives you hope,” she said.

Finland’s government has said it will take a very careful look at NATO, and that any move now should be well calculated.

With files from CTVNews.ca’s Alexandra Mae Jones

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Nation World News Desk
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