Voters in Finland Will Choose a President to Shape a New NATO Era

Finns will elect a new president on Sunday in the first national election since the country joined NATO, choosing a leader who will be critical to shaping the country’s role in the alliance at a time of increasingly fraught relations with Russia.

The election might typically gain little notice beyond the borders of the sparsely populated northern European country of 5.6 million. But Finland, the newest member of NATO, shares the longest border with Russia — some 830 miles — and its politics have taken on special interest to its European and American allies as the geopolitical order shifts.

U.S. power is being challenged by Moscow and Beijing, and Europe is grappling with its largest land war since World War II. At the same time, the American commitment to aiding Ukraine looks increasingly in doubt, and an unpredictable American presidential election looms.

Finland’s president is responsible for foreign policy, and whoever wins will bear chief responsibility for steering the country through a changing world.

“The future president is going to have an impact on what kind of a NATO country Finland will be in the future,” said Jenni Karimaki, a political analyst at the University of Helsinki. “NATO membership is one of the things creating interest in these elections — and of course, the overall global political situation.”

A closed border crossing between Finland and Russia in Virolahti, Finland, last month.Credit…Lehtikuva/via Reuters

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