Finland’s NATO Membership

On April 4 this year, Finland officially became a member of the NATO, marking a definitive shift in Europe’s post-World War II alignment and isolating Russia further. The move ends over 70 years of military non-alignment for the small Nordic country that shares a 1,340-km border with Russia. During the Cold War era, the policy of neutrality between the USSR and the West was known as “Finlandisation”, and this had been one of the options discussed for Ukraine before Russia invaded it.

Why Has Finland Joined NATO?

Russia’s war against Ukraine has made Finland crave the powerful military backing that NATO offers. Every member of the alliance has to defend any one member being attacked under its charter. Finland and its neighbor Sweden applied for NATO membership following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Finland is now the 31st NATO member.

Finland-Russia Ties

During the Cold War, Finland took care not to undertake any action that could antagonize its bigger neighbor, the Soviet Union. After the Winter War of 1939-40, when the Soviets invaded Finland to keep Leningrad safe during World War II, Finland’s small and poorly equipped army gave a tough fight, inflicting damage on both the Soviet army and its reputation. The war concluded with the Moscow Peace Treaty. This treaty forced Finland to cede territories to the USSR. After the World War ended, the Finns stayed away from Western military alliances and respected the Soviet Union’s security interests.

Despite years of peace, Finland ensured preparedness for the possibility of invasion. The country has compulsory military service, imparts regular disaster training, and spends 2% of GDP on defense, the target figure demanded by NATO that even member countries like Germany have not reached.

Significance of Finland Joining NATO

For Finland, joining NATO brings better security, but the country is losing out on significant trade and tourist revenue it was making from Russia and its position as the West’s gateway to the East. Russia has criticized Finland’s move and said it would fray relations with Moscow, undo its status as a confidence-building presence in the Baltic Sea and Europe, and raise the risk of the Ukraine conflict escalating further.

For NATO, Finland’s membership provides additional military strength doubles its border with the country, brings it in a better position to station weapons, including missile launchpads, closer to Russia.

For Russia, Finland’s membership brought NATO closer to its doors, the very thing it most strenuously opposes, and the prevention of which it had cited as one of the reasons to invade Ukraine. Russia has said it will now strengthen its military capacity in its west and northwest.



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