Analysis: Finland is about to apply to join NATO. Here’s why it’s bad news for Putin

The Nordic nation is expected to announce its interest in NATO membership as early as this week after its foreign affairs committee drafts a response to the government’s security report – which includes the option of joining the alliance. After that, the Finnish parliament will hold an extraordinary debate on whether to approve the recommendations of the safety report.

At this point, it is very likely that NATO would invite the country to talk about joining the alliance.

It is widely believed that this would happen very quickly, as Finland already meets most of the criteria and it is very unlikely that a NATO member will object.

Several recent opinion polls have shown that at least 60% of Finns now support NATO membership, a huge jump from the previous high of around 30% in previous years.

If it goes as planned, this country of less than 6 million people will have redrawn the map of European security in a way that was previously inconceivable and that could have enormous consequences for Russia.

Before Putin invaded Ukraine, he made clear his belief that NATO had moved too close to Russia and should be brought back to its 1990s borders, before some of Russia’s neighboring countries or former states Soviets do not join the military alliance.

Russia currently shares about 755 miles of land border with five NATO members, according to the alliance. Finland’s membership would mean that a nation with which Russia shares an 800-mile border would become officially aligned militarily with the United States.

Not only would that be bad news for the Kremlin, but the addition of Finland would be a boon for NATO. Despite its relatively small population, Finland is a serious military power that has unofficially aligned itself with the West for decades. Its military has for decades used US-purchased equipment that is compatible with NATO allies, meaning it could easily join NATO missions if it wanted to.

Ideology of “survival”

Many believe that the only reason Finland did not join the alliance before the Ukraine crisis was simple pragmatism.

“Finnish security has always been based on two concepts: firstly geography and history; secondly idealism and realism,” former Finnish prime minister Alexander Stubb told CNN.

“In an ideal world, we want to cooperate with Russia, which we cannot escape by being our geographical neighbour. But we also know from history that the greatest realistic threat to our national security is Russia. time, the reality that Russia is ready to create greater chaos in our region has become even clearer, so joining NATO becomes the pragmatic option,” he said.

Historically, Finland has navigated these competing realities by simultaneously addressing Russia’s security concerns, however irrational, while maintaining high defense spending and a standing army compatible with Western allies.

“It’s always been crazy, the idea of ​​a Western country invading Russia, but we’ve tried to minimize those concerns by boosting trade and cooperating in other areas,” said Charly Salonius-Pasternak, researcher at forefront in global security at the Finnish Institute. of International Affairs.

He adds, however, that in addition to policies such as conscription – all Finnish men are eligible for military service – and high military spending, Finnish politicians have consistently sold the public on the idea that the way of life Finland’s idealism must be maintained at all costs.

Swedish army armored vehicles and tanks take part in a military exercise called

“Finland’s default ideology has been one of survival. Over the past 100 years, we have become a strong and sovereign country with a high standard of living. We have had to sacrifice land to keep the peace,” said Salonius-Pasternak. “It is therefore vitally important that our way of life survives, whether through pragmatic diplomacy or by taking a tougher stance against our greatest threat.”

There is no doubt that Finland joining NATO would be a blow to Putin. Not only would that mean those extra 800 miles of common border with the alliance, but symbolically it would go further in unifying the anti-Putin coalition that has emerged since the invasion of Ukraine. Countries that were once neutral are now supplying funds and arms to Ukraine and Putin is an international pariah with fewer allies every day.

It would also extend NATO’s influence in northern Europe to the Arctic, an area that is becoming increasingly important geopolitically due to its natural resources, strategic location and its numerous territorial claims, notably from Russia, Finland and the United States.

Sweden, which neighbors Finland to the west, is also considering joining the alliance – and Finland’s membership would make it all the more likely as the two countries have followed a similar path since the start of the war. Ukrainian crisis.

Russian response

Of course, Russia’s reaction to Finland’s expression of its desire to join NATO raises concerns.

Martti Kari, who previously served as Finland’s deputy defense intelligence chief, told CNN that Russia has already launched a disinformation campaign against him. “The main theme is that Finland is a Nazi country, because we fought against [the] the Soviet Union in World War II on the side of Nazi Germany,” he said.

He predicts that Russia could violate Finnish airspace and disrupt its activities at sea, including shipping, as well as boost its intelligence operations against the country.

Håkon Lunde Saxi, an associate professor at the Norwegian University Defense College, thinks any move towards Finland’s NATO membership “would likely lead to a Russian military build-up along NATO’s new border with Russia, which in itself would not be beneficial to Finland or European security.”

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin addresses a news conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz ahead of talks at the Chancellery on March 16, 2022 in Berlin, Germany.

However, he believes the benefits would far outweigh the “possible negative consequences of a somewhat larger Russian military footprint along the Finnish border”.

And despite concerns about what would happen in the interim period, where Finland would not be protected by NATO membership but would be in negotiation, several officials told CNN they expect members of the alliance, in particular the United Kingdom and the United States, that they guarantee Finnish security. through this process.

Of course, nothing is certain until Finland takes the first step by declaring its intention. But with public approval, political support and Russia providing every reason for another of its neighbors to join its hated rival, there is no doubt that Putin’s ploy to reduce NATO’s influence in Europe has backfired spectacularly.


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