A majority of Finns now want to join NATO, a new poll finds

The poll began a day before Russia invaded Ukraine.

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Banners displaying the NATO logo are placed at the entrance of new NATO headquarters during the move to the new building, in Brussels, Belgium on April 19, 2018. (Yves Herman / Reuters File Photo)

HELSINKI — For the first time, more than half of Finns are in favor of their country joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), according to a poll commissioned by public broadcasting company Yle.

Out of 1,382 adults, 53 percent said Finland should join the defense alliance, 28 percent said no and 19 percent were indecisive, the poll data showed.

The panel was weighed based on age, domicile and gender to represent the 5.5 million people nation, leaving an error margin of 2.5 percentage points, said the company that did the poll.

[Russia warns Sweden and Finland not to try to join NATO]

The poll was commenced on February 23, a day before Russia invaded Ukraine, Yle added.

Two days later, after the invasion was underway, and western sanctions began, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova threatened Finland, as well as neighboring Sweden (which is also not a member of NATO), with “military and political consequences” if the two nations tried to join NATO.

The results show a swift change in attitudes, as two years ago just 20 percent were in favor in a poll commissioned by the largest daily newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, but that figure had less than two weeks ago risen to 43 percent.

Reporting by Essi Lehto.