Estonian foreign policy experts do not think it likely Finland will join NATO in the near future and increased discussions are related to Russia's recent ultimatum.
Russia's NATO enlargement ultimatum is linked to the country's dissatisfaction with the European security order and the desire to establish spheres of influence in neighboring countries, Director of the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute Kristi Raik told ETV's "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) on Tuesday.
"Russia can be said to have launched a very strong diplomatic attack and put very serious threats on the table. Russia threatens war if NATO does not stop enlargement," she said.
Recent statements about the door to NATO being open by the Finnish president and prime minister show Russia's threats are being taken seriously, Raik said. It sends a clear message to Russia that concessions must not be made on important European security issues.
The expert said Finland's right to join NATO is enshrined in the country's security strategy. Over the years the "NATO card" has been used to try and curb Russian aggression.
"So it is as if Finland is threatening Russia, that if you do not pull back, we will join NATO," said Raik.
Postimees foreign affairs journalist Erkki Bahovski told AK the messages from top Finnish politicians show Russia's actions are being taken seriously. However, he does not believe the country is in a hurry to join NATO.
"We see that Finland is very slow to change its security policy, and that is also a reason why I do not believe that Finland will change anything radically if Russia does not actually attack Ukraine. Then we can expect some faster changes," he said.
Raik said the president and prime minister's messages emphasize Finland can make its own decisions. She said joining NATO in the future cannot be ruled out.
"But applying for NATO membership right now would be especially difficult as the security situation in Europe is more turbulent than at any time over the last 30 years. Certainly, Finland is very concerned about Russia's response to Finland's NATO aspirations. It is expected that Russia, for its part, would try to do everything to prevent it," Raik said.
Finland could ask for a security guarantee from NATO before joining in order to be ready for pressure and influence from Russia should it decide to start the access process, she said.
Last month, Russia issued a series of demands to the U.S. that NATO should roll back its presence on its Eastern flank and, including in the Baltics, and rule out Georgia or Ukraine joining the alliance in the future or any further expansion elsewhere.
Editor: Helen Wright