#09 FINLAND GOES FULL NATO
I was in Helsinki in July, and also Joe Biden was in town for a couple of days, on his way back from the NATO summit in Vilnius. Many Finns were happy to see also this kind of "validation" for the recent NATO membership admission—an admission long awaited for many. I instead can admit it right away: I would've actually preferred that Finland stay out of NATO; good relationship yes, but membership no. At a dinner some time ago, I asked a former ambassador his view on Finland and Sweden joining NATO, and he defined it an "unavoidable choice"—I honestly can't say that I agree. That said, I know perfectly well that the vast majority of Finns wanted it, and I of course respect that (and I sort of understand where they're coming from, too—however, Putin should've been stopped a long long time ago, but you know, business).
I can admit another thing too: when Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, being a Finn, it scared the hell out of me too, even though I live in Italy; during the days I kept reading the news, and war was in my dreams for several nights. I still find myself wondering every once in a while, what if it had been Finland? What if Finland's next?
Perhaps you have to grow up in Finland in order to understand that fear. People near me here in Italy only brought up the detail of me being Finnish when Finland decided to join NATO, not when the invasion started (at least I don't remember any particular comment to that effect); instead, when the NATO membership became reality, few of them seemed to be almost terrified for me. However, at that point, with Ukraine being under attack for over a year by then, I didn't feel anything of the sort; I of course had been following the discussion around NATO and Ukraine in Finland from afar, so I already knew what to expect.
As I wrote in my blog when the invasion started, I was (and still am) very happy that the current President of Finland Sauli Niinistö is so calm, with no need to start flexing in front of Putin—the embodiment of Finnish rationality. In 2024, Mr Niinistö will end his second six year term (the constitution allows two consequent six year terms), and I truly hope that his successor will adopt the same attitude and approach.
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