Finnish Leader Urges EU To Boost Security, NATO Contributions

On February 28th, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö urged the European Union (EU) to increase their contributions to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and boost security in order to combat political turmoil that is coming from both internal and external sources. Niinistö warns that after a generation of peace, the EU has grown far too complacent in the face of security concerns.

Niinistö’s statement follows a recent request from United States President Donald Trump for European nations to increase their NATO spending. As he told the New York Times in an interview, “NATO is unfair, economically, to us, to the United States. Because it really helps them more so than the United States, and we pay a disproportionate share.” Trump has gone so far as to threaten to withdraw the US from the Alliance. Should this happen, it would fall onto other nations to increase their spending in order to maintain the work done by NATO.

Finland, while not actually a member of NATO, participates and cooperates in a variety of NATO-run operations since joining the Partnership for Peace (PfP) in 1994. This program is aimed at fostering an environment of trust between NATO and other non-member states in Europe and the former Soviet Union. According to the NATO website, Finland is considered an Enhanced Opportunity Partner or a partner that makes significant contributions to NATO operations and other Alliance objectives. As a result, they are awarded enhanced opportunities for dialogue and cooperation with the Allies. However, despite supporting NATO, Niinistö is also pushing for nations to increase their security, separate from the Alliance. He told CNBC, “I think that Europeans start to understand that they have to take more responsibility of their own security in spite of the fact that they are members of NATO and have a lot of trust to NATO.”

Given the United Kingdom’s recent referendum, which resulted in the nation leaving the EU, the bloc appears increasingly unstable. In the face of its debt crisis, the EU has taken a hit in regards to its legitimacy in the eyes of many European citizens. The decision of the UK, a major player on global platforms, was the greatest hit to this legitimacy, and perhaps the most volatile. Emboldened by this, many political parties throughout Europe have spoken up in favor of their nations leaving the EU. Recognizing that citizens are doubting the influence of the EU and using the UK as an example, these parties prey on the vulnerable political climate.

Many see these parties as an internal threat looking to eliminate the EU. Marine Le Pen, a leader of the National Front party who has hopes of winning the French presidency, has pledged to renegotiate France’s EU membership if elected. Should this fail, she has promised a referendum. She is not the only one, as similar parties are popping up in Italy, Poland, and the Netherlands. It seems likely that it will only be a matter of time until another referendum occurs as these political parties continue to gain prominence in their respective nations. Combined with terrorist attacks, like those in Paris and Brussels, the need for nations to increase security is, in President Niinistö’s eyes, necessary to ensure safety and secure a future for the fragile EU.

Jordan Meyerl