Finnish support for joining NATO hits record 62pc: poll

A tram passes by a streetsign 'Zelenskyinkatu' (Zelenskyi Street) by the Russian Embassy in Helsinki, Finland on 13 March 2022.AFP

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has increased public support in Finland for joining the NATO alliance to record levels, a poll published on Monday suggested.

A total of 62 per cent of respondents in the Nordic country now support applying for NATO membership, according to the survey commissioned by public broadcaster Yle, up from 53 percent in the same poll two weeks ago.

Meanwhile, 16 per cent in Monday's poll opposed joining and 21 per cent were unsure, Yle said.

Finland, which shares the EU's longest land border with Russia, has remained militarily non-aligned since the end of the Cold War for fear of provoking Moscow.

But public support for joining the US-led defence alliance has soared since Russia's shock invasion of Ukraine on 24 February, which left many in Finland, a country of 5.5 million, feeling vulnerable to potential aggression from its giant eastern neighbour.

For most of the past two decades, public opinion regarding NATO has remained stable in Finland, with less than a third in favour of joining and about 50 percent against.

Since the assault on Ukraine, Finnish leaders have held multiple meetings with their US and Nordic counterparts regarding Finnish defence and security.

Last week, President Sauli Niinisto repeated his call for Finland to decide "without hesitation but carefully" on the question of whether or not to try to join NATO.

Niinisto said the decision was one for parliament, adding that "the time for conclusions" would be after lawmakers have reviewed a report on the risks and benefits of joining, which is expected in the coming weeks.

A total of 1,378 respondents aged over 18 were surveyed online by pollsters Taloustutkimus between March 9 and 11, with a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points, Yle said.