When on February 11, 2022, Russia launched what it termed “a Special Military Operation” in Ukraine, (but described by the West as a naked invasion) one of the key reasons was to establish legal provisions that would prohibit Ukraine or any other country bordering Russia from joining NATO.
But that invasion has boomeranged big time. On Tuesday, April 4, Finland officially joined NATO, becoming the 31st member of the world’s largest military alliance.
The development follows over a year of negotiation, and it’s understood that the Russian attack on Ukraine stoked concerns in Finland that it could become the Kremlin’s next target.
By joining NATO, Finland has helped shift in significant ways the security landscape in northeastern Europe. It has added some 1,300 kilometers (830 miles) to the alliance’s frontier with Russia-a reality that makes Russia more vulnerable in times of war.
The Finnish presidency in a statement said: “The era of military non-alignment in our history has come to an end. A new era begins.”
“Each country maximizes its own security. So does Finland. At the same time, NATO membership strengthens our international position and room for maneuver. As a partner, we have long actively participated in NATO activities. In the future, Finland will make a contribution to NATO’s collective deterrence and defense,” it added.
And Finland doesn’t only give NATO that advantage of geography. Finland also joins NATO as the largest artillery force in Western Europe, with more firepower than the militaries of Poland, Germany, Norway, and Sweden combined, according to a November 2022 report by the Wilson Center.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg thanked President Niinistö for his outstanding leadership and for leading Finland into the most successful Alliance in history. “I am deeply proud to welcome Finland as a full-fledged member of our Alliance and I look forward to also welcoming Sweden as soon as possible,” he said.
“Joining NATO is good for Finland, it is good for Nordic security, and it is good for NATO as a whole,” he added. The Secretary General also noted that Finland’s accession shows the world that President Putin failed to “slam NATO’s door shut.” “Instead of less NATO, he has achieved the opposite; more NATO and our door remains firmly open,” he said.
It marks a symbolic defeat for Putin who had always had a long-standing obsession with weakening NATO, and possibly with eyes of re-establishing the power of the former Soviet Union.
“When Putin launched his brutal war of aggression against the people of Ukraine, he thought he could divide Europe and NATO,” U.S. President Joe Biden said in a statement on Tuesday welcoming Finland to the bloc. “He was wrong. Today, we are more united than ever.”
But just hours after Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto formally handed over the country’s accession documents, making its membership official, the Kremlin warned of potential “retaliatory measures,” including increasing its forces along its 832-mile border with the Nordic nation.
But very few security experts believe Russia’s threats have any potency. Putin has struggled in Ukraine, unable to extricate his country from a war he launched with the intention of defeating the enemy within weeks.
The war is now over one year old, with thousands of people dead and millions forced to flee from their homes.
Yet, Ukraine, with significant support from the US has been holding on.
“I don’t really think that Russia has any capability to threaten Finland these days given the poor performance of Russian forces in Ukraine,” said Camille Grand, a former NATO assistant secretary-general.
It’s even more unlikely that Russia could launch an attack on a NATO member, for fear of triggering article 5 of the alliance that has to do with collective security. The article states that “an armed attack against one or more of them (NATO members) in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all.”