Finnish President Sauli Niinisto addresses the 72nd United Nations General Assembly at U.N. Headquarters in New York, U.S., September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

HELSINKI (Reuters) – Any move by Finland to join NATO would need public approval via a referendum, President Sauli Niinisto told a panel debate on Monday ahead of elections in January.
The Nordic country is a member of the European Union but has stayed outside the NATO military alliance in line with its tradition of avoiding confrontation with Russia, with which it shares an 833 mile (1,340 km) border and a difficult history.
It has forged closer ties with NATO in recent years, however, sharing information and taking part in military exercises, reflecting concerns in Finland about the Ukraine crisis and increased East-West tensions in the Baltic Sea.
Niinisto, who is expected to easily win a second six-year term in the Jan. 28 election, did not indicate whether he favoured joining NATO but said a decision to apply for full membership would require a referendum.
“I am convinced that (membership) …
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