Finnish military officers favour NATO entry - paper

HELSINKI Sat Apr 26, 2014 8:44pm IST

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HELSINKI (Reuters) - Almost two-thirds of Finnish military officers believe the country should join NATO, and even more think the Russian military threat has grown in the wake of the Ukraine crisis, a poll showed on Saturday.

The crisis has brought relations between Russia and the West to their lowest ebb since the Cold War, and is increasingly turning into a military stand-off.

Of the polled officers, 66 percent favoured NATO entry, 10 percent preferred a defence alliance with Sweden and one quarter thought it would be best to remain outside any alliance.

About three quarters of respondents the Ukraine crisis had made them view NATO membership more positively, and slightly more said the Russian military threat against Finland had increased.

Some 2,000 of the 6,000 members of the Officers' Union were part of the survey, conducted by the union and daily Helsingin Sanomat last week.

Support for NATO membership remains low among the general population, with recent polls showing only about one in five favouring entry.

Separately, Helsingin Sanomat quoted the Finnish defence minister as saying that could change.

"Things will change the day when the leadership says that we should join the NATO, that is very obvious," Carl Haglund said at a conference in Tallinn.

(Reporting by Sakari Suoninen; editing by Andrew Roche)

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