General Nikolai Makarov visited Finland in early June and warned Finnish defense specialists and military officers not to enter closer cooperation with NATO. He made special note against Finland’s participation in NATO’s exercises in northern Norway.
“Military cooperation between Russia and NATO is progressing well and is beneficial to both parties. In contrast, cooperation between Finland and NATO threatens Russia’s security. Finland should not be desirous of NATO membership, rather it should preferably have tighter military cooperation with Russia,” Makarov said in June as reported by YLE News.
The Russian General’s Cold War rhetoric made headlines in Finland.
President Sauli Niinistö told the Russian General that an incorrect analysis easily leads to the wrong conclusions, Helsingin Sanomat reported after the June meeting.
Increased NATO support Two different opinion polls in Finland after the controversial statement by General Makarov now clearly shows that the issue has triggered less skepticism regarding Finnish NATO cooperation. A survey made for Ilta Sanomat indicates that just under one-fifth of respondents said their attitude towards NATO had become more favorable as a result of Makarov’s statement.
Another survey made for MTV3 confirmed the trend. 62 percent of Finns are opposed to Finland joining NATO. This is down six percentage points from last December.
New defense minister support Nordic cooperation Last week, Carl Haglund took over the post as Finland’s Defense minister. He is neutral on possible NATO membership, but says he supports Nordic military cooperation, in particular Finland’s participation in the NATO-led surveillance of Iceland’s airspace.
“In principle I’m very supportive of the mission, though some legalities must be ironed out before we can make a decision,” Haglund told YLE News on Thursday.
From New Year, Finland takes over the chair of the Nordic Defence Cooperation, a joint organization for defense cooperation between Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland.