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Finnish leaders know how to have a good time, which is probably why Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto recently sat down with Ian Bremmer to discuss Finland’s NATO accession.Threats from the Kremlin had kept Finland (and Sweden) from joining the alliance for 75 years. But the invasion of Ukraine changed all that. In May, Finland’s long-serving President Sauli Niinistö rang his old friend, Vladimir Putin. “It’s not me, it’s you,” Niinistö intimated to the Russian leader.


Putin reacted calmly, and those decades of threats have resulted in … zilch. Haavisto says Putin is too preoccupied with the Ukraine offensive to worry about Finland – he notes that Finns can see Russia moving its military away from their border, presumably to beef up reinforcements on the frontlines.

But that doesn’t mean joining NATO has been smooth sailing for the land of a thousand lakes. A surprise hiccup came from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has an axe to grind with the Nordics over things like their alleged support for a Kurdish group in Syria they say is linked to the PKK, which Ankara regards as a terrorist group. Erdoğan said neither Finland nor Sweden should be allowed to join NATO while harboring “terrorists.” But the three came to a tentative agreement in June to move forward with the membership process.

The Finns’ bid to join NATO was fueled by its changing security situation when the neighbor with whom Finland shares an 830-mile border suddenly brought war back to the continent. So imagine how Ukraine has felt for years … Sure, the members of NATO have now welcomed Ukraine’s bid to join. But in retrospect, should membership have been extended to Kyiv before now?

Find out why Haavisto believes “nobody should be excluded” from membership consideration moving forward.

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