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Ex-Nato secretary general: "Finland and Sweden could become members overnight"

According to Rasmussen, an attack on Ukraine "would provoke a discussion in Finland and Sweden about Nato membership". The Finnish foreign minister said there are no such plans at this point.

Former Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told Yle that an attack on Ukraine could spur Finnish Nato membership. Image: YURI KOCHETKOV / EPA / All Over Press

In an interview with Yle published on Saturday, former Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen discussed this past week's series of talks between Russian, European and US officials aimed at de-escalating tensions surrounding Ukraine

"In practice, Russia is demanding a veto over Nato enlargement. The doors of Nato will remain open, and we do not want Vladimir Putin to serve as a doorman," he said.

Rasmussen said he does not believe that Russia will attack Ukraine.

"I think a Russian attack would provoke a discussion in Finland and Sweden regarding future Nato membership…so the price would be extremely high for Putin to attack Ukraine," said the former Danish prime minister.

According to Rasmussen, Finland and Sweden are Nato's closest partners.

"If Finland and Sweden applied for membership, we could decide on it overnight. You could be a member the very next day because you meet all the necessary membership criteria," said Rasmussen, who was Nato Secretary General from 2009 to 2014.

Haavisto: No plans to join Nato

Finland and neighbouring Sweden are among half a dozen EU member states that are not members of Nato. On Friday, Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (Green) said that Finland has no plans to join the US-led alliance.

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Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (Green) Image: Gints Ivuskans / AFP

"Finland is not holding discussions with Nato about joining, nor does Finland have such a project upcoming...Finland's security policy remains unchanged," Haavisto told reporters at a teleconference after a meeting of EU foreign ministers.

Aaltola: Finland's "key role in face of Russian challenge"

Mika Aaltola, Director of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA), has described the current tensions between Russia and western countries as "a very traditional geopolitical escalation…that has been smouldering for a long time".

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Mika Aaltola, Director of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs Image: Tiina Jutila / Yle

Interviewed on the Yle TV1 current affairs programme Ykkösaamu on Saturday, Aaltola noted that Russia's goal has been to obtain assurances from the West that Nato will not expand toward the east. On this issue, the West did not give any ground, and Russia did not get what it wanted, said Aaltola.

At the Nato-Russia meeting on Wednesday, Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg strongly defended of the sovereignty of small states and mentioned a New Year's speech by Finnish President Sauli Niinistö.

"Niinistö's speech was startling for many. Finland said that Western unity and keeping the doors open to Nato are in its national interest. Finland has played a key role in stabilising the West in the face of the Russian challenge," said Aaltola. "Niinistö's speech was clear and there has been unusual interest in it abroad," he added.

In his address, Niinistö pointed out that “room to manoeuvre and freedom of choice also include the possibility of military alignment and of applying for Nato membership, should we ourselves so decide.”

According to Aaltola, both Russia and Nato see that they have something to gain – or to lose – in relation to Finland.

Lavrov: "Artificial luring" into Nato

Aaltola said that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has described the situation with the knowledge that Russia has a lot to lose in relation to Finland.

"It is good that Russia is aware of this," Aaltola said.

At a press conference on Friday, Lavrov said it is up to Finland and Sweden to decide if they want to join Nato.

"Recently, the US and Nato leadership made rather interesting statements that the Scandinavian states that are not members of the alliance, will be welcome. This is a kind of artificial luring, expansion of this structure, which lost the point of its existence after the end of the Cold War and the disappearance of the Warsaw Pact," he was quoted as saying by the Russian news agency Tass.

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