NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg meeting with Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin (the SDP) at the Finlandia Hall in Helsinki on October 25, 2021. Photograph: Tony Öhberg/Finland Today

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg together with ambassadors from NATO member states—The North Atlantic Council—visited Finland on Monday and Tuesday. The visit played historical significance. It was Stoltenberg’s and his ambassadors’ first visit to Finland.

As a reminder, Finland is not currently part of the intergovernmental military alliance, NATO (The North Atlantic Treaty Organization), which includes 28 European countries and two North American countries.

We summoned Secretary General Stoltenberg’s visit in five key points.

1. Secretary General Stoltenberg began his visit by having talks with President Sauli Niinistö at the Presidential Palace. At the press conference following the discussions, Stoltenberg said that the door will remain open for Finland to join NATO. “But the decision of the membership is up to Finland to decide.”

2. The key difference, according to Stoltenberg, with being a member or a non-member is that if a NATO member state would be attacked it would be interpreted as an attack against all member states. “This collective defense clause doesn’t concern Finland. That is the difference between a member and a non-member,” Stoltenberg said.

3. Stoltenberg described Finland as one of the closest and most important NATO partners. “NATO fully respects Finland’s strong and independent security politics,” he said.

Currently, 26 percent of Finns support NATO membership and 40 percent are against joining the military alliance.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg with Minister for Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto (the Green League) in Helsinki, Finland, October 25, 2021. Minister Haavisto met with the North Atlantic Council for a lunch discussion. Minister Haavisto and Secretary General Stoltenberg also had a bilateral meeting. Photograph: Seppo Sirkka/Eastpress

4. According to Tommi Koivula, a special researcher and lecturer at National Defence University, joining NATO is a long process. (Could take up to two years.) According to the terms, a significant part of Finnish citizens should support the decision. Likely a referendum would have to take place. (Currently, 26 percent of Finns support NATO membership and 40 percent are against joining the military alliance, according to a survey published by the Finnish Business and Policy Forum EVA on Tuesday.)

In the end, the government would propose the membership to Parliament where it would be debated and finally decided by the president.

5. Just before Stoltenberg’s visit, on October 22, Defense Minister Antti Kaikkonen (the Centre) attended a NATO defense minister meeting at the NATO headquarters in Brussels. “NATO is the key actor in advancing transatlantic and European security and stability. It is important for Finland to have regularly the opportunity to exchange views with NATO and its allies,” Minister Kaikkonen said in a statement.