Writes Gerard O'Dwyer in Defense News:
As Finland and other Scandinavian nations become increasingly absorbed with defining their separate relationships with NATO, behind-the-scenes politics suggests Finland and Sweden are moving closer to joining neighbors Denmark and Norway as formal alliance members before 2012.I'm not sure I can believe it. If I had to pick a year when it happens, I'd go with 2013. Then President Tarja Halonen will be safely out of the way and, perhaps, the presidency will have been stripped of some or all of its remaining foreign policy powers. Joining as a full member while Halonen is in principle leading Finland's foreign policy would require some mighty forceful backpedaling on her part.
After following the Finnish debate on the issue, I found the quotes from Social Democratic Party chairman Eero Heinäluoma quite interesting:
"All parties have views on NATO," Heinäluoma said. "Some are pro-NATO and others are more cautious or against membership. The Finnish military command has made their views on NATO membership known to the Ministry of Defense. These are all grounds to believe that we will know if Finland will join NATO or not in two to three years." [...] "As a party, we see nothing wrong in principle to Finland's taking part in the NATO Rapid Response Force," Heinäluoma said. "The real issue is, can Finland afford to do so, and right now the simple answer ... is probably not."That sounds quite a bit different than what the Social Democrats were saying during the parliamentary election campaign - and the presidential election campaign, for that matter. They've on several occasions warned that the National Coalition Party is NATO-friendly and presented this as a reason to vote for them. Now Heinäluoma sees nothing wrong in principle; it's just that the cost is an issue, gosh darn it.
Another question is whether cost is a real issue. I think I've seen some arguments to the effect that joining NATO would save money, although I have to admit I lack the expertise to evaluate such claims. The previous Defense Minister Seppo Kääriäinen's (Centre Party) view was of course that either Finland joins NATO and increases its defense budget or it doesn't join NATO and still increases its defense budget.