Finland Officially Joins NATO: What Does This Mean?

Finland formally joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on Tuesday, becoming the world’s largest defense alliance’s 31st member in a historic realignment prompted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Turkey became the final NATO member country to accept Finland’s accession protocol last week. The Finnish foreign minister will hand over the document formally enshrining that decision to the United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken as the final step in the process.

“Finland has today become a member of the defence alliance NATO. The era of military non-alignment in our history has come to an end. A new era begins,” said Finland President Sauli Niinistö in a statement.

The acceptance of Finland to NATO comes of a two-day meeting of Allied Foreign Ministers. Allies will discuss Russia’s illegal war on Ukraine at their summit, and are anticipated to agree to begin work on building a multi-year support program. They will also discuss South Asian risks and challenges, the significance of increasing defense spending, and China’s growing alignment with Russia.

“It will be a good day for Finland’s security, for Nordic security and for NATO as a whole,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

Finland’s accession, which will be honored by a flag-raising ceremony at NATO headquarters, coincides with the organization’s 74th anniversary of the signing of its founding Washington Treaty on April 4, 1949.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly praised Finland’s admission.

“Canada was proud to be the first country to ratify Finland’s accession, and we worked with Finland and our NATO partners to maintain momentum throughout the ratification process,” she said. “With Finland, and soon to be with Sweden, we are stronger than ever and ready to stand together in the face of some of the most important challenges to our collective security in decades.”

Sweden also applied, but its accession procedure might take many months longer. Turkey and Hungary have both voiced concerns with Sweden that they want resolved before ratification can take place.

Doubling border with Russia

Finland’s admission to the US-led security alliance is a setback for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has long sought to undermine NATO and insisted the bloc abstain from future expansion before invading Ukraine.

Instead, the invasion compelled non-aligned Finland and Sweden to surrender their neutrality–a position they’ve taken since the Soviet Union broke off after World War II–and seek refuge within NATO.

Finland has a history with Moscow, having been invaded by the Soviet Union in 1939, and support for joining NATO has risen from approximately a quarter of the population to 80% since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

While Ukraine is not part of the organization, it considers the embattled country a “close NATO partner country,” noting that Kiev cooperates closely with NATO but it is not covered by the security guarantee in the Alliance’s founding treaty.

“NATO condemns in the strongest possible terms Russia’s brutal and unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine – which is an independent, peaceful and democratic country, and a close NATO partner,” the organization said in a statement back in February.

Prior to Tuesday, Russia shared a land border with five NATO countries totaling approximately 1,215 kilometers (755 miles). The addition of Finland more than doubles NATO’s land border with Russia.

Germany has reunified in the last 32 years, and all former Warsaw Pact countries have joined NATO. Three former Soviet Union member countries, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, have also joined NATO.

As of 2022, NATO has expanded to let in three former Soviet states and all of the former Warsaw Pact countries.
Bryn Bache | CNBC

But, Russia has cautioned that further NATO expansion will not bring more stability to Europe, and on Monday said that if the alliance moved troops or equipment to the new member country, it would increase its military near Finland.

“We will strengthen our military potential in the west and in the northwest,” Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko said Monday, according to state RIA Novosti news agency. “In case of deployment of forces of other NATO members on the territory of Finland, we will take additional steps to ensure Russia’s military security.”

But, Stoltenberg stated that no further troops would be sent to the Nordic country unless it requested assistance, saying “there will be no NATO troops in Finland without the consent of Finland.” Nonetheless, he declined to rule out the potential of further military exercises being held there and stated that NATO will not let Russia’s demands dictate the organization’s actions.

“We are constantly assessing our posture, our presence. We have more exercises, we have more presence, also in the Nordic area,” he said.

Mutual defense

Finland’s NATO membership gives the Northern European country access to the full alliance’s resources in the case of an attack. It contains NATO’s Article 5 principle, which declares that an attack on one NATO member constitutes an attack on all NATO members. It has been a pillar of the 30-member alliance since its inception in 1949 as a counterweight to the Soviet Union.

Article 5 has been invoked only once in NATO history, after the September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001. It has been threatened numerous times, most recently by the United Kingdom in response to Russia’s attack on the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine, which could result in radiation leaks to NATO members, and by Albania in response to a major cyberattack on critical and government infrastructure on 15 July 2022, widely believed to have been carried out on behalf of Iran by state-affiliated cybercriminals.

“As a NATO member, Finland will need readiness for change and adaptability. While membership does not change everything, being an ally requires us to adopt new ways of thinking and some changes in legislation as well,” Niinistö said in his statement.

While a lot has already been done in the country’s commitment to develop its NATO compatibility, the Finnish president noted “there is still considerable work ahead to integrate Finland’s defence as part of NATO’s common defence.”

However, minimal adjustment is expected as Finnish forces is regularly participating in NATO exercises under a partner status.

According to a November assessment from the Wilson Center in Washington, three main areas where Finland benefits NATO are reserve forces, technological access, and artillery forces.

“Finland’s artillery forces are the largest and best-equipped in Western Europe,” the report said. “With some 1,500 artillery weapons, including 700 Howitzer guns, 700 heavy mortar, and 100 rocket launcher systems, the Finnish artillery has more artillery firepower than the combined militaries of Poland, Germany, Norway, and Sweden can currently muster.”

The Wilson Center research also emphasized Finland’s good cyber security record, noting that the country is home to Nokia, “a major provider of 5G infrastructure,” and one of the world’s three major providers of 5G infrastructure, along with Sweden’s Ericsson and China’s Huawei.

It further stated that Finland has 900,000 reserves who have been trained as conscripts in its armed forces. According to the report, Finland’s wartime strength is 280,000 troops.

Aside from Sweden, the other European Economic Area or Schengen Area countries that are not members of NATO are Ireland, Austria, and Switzerland, in addition to a few other European island countries and microstates.

Information for this briefing was found via CBC, CNN, NBC, BBC, CNBC, and the sources mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to this organization. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.

Leave a Reply