Analysis: Finland is on the verge of applying to join NATO. That is why this is bad news for Putin

The Nordic nation is expected to announce its interest in NATO membership as soon as this week, after its foreign affairs committee drafted a response to the government’s security report, which includes the possibility of joining the alliance. Subsequently, 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.

This is believed to happen very quickly, as Finland already meets most of the criteria and NATO members are highly unlikely to object.

Numerous recent opinion polls have shown that at least 60% of Finns are now in favor of NATO membership, a huge leap from the previous high of around 30% in past years.

If that goes as planned, this country with fewer than 6 million people will have redesigned the European security map in a way that was previously inconceivable and could have huge consequences for Russia.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a joint press with the foreign ministers of Sweden and Finland following their meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels on 24 January 2022.

Before Putin invaded Ukraine, he made it clear his belief that NATO had gotten too close to Russia and should have been brought back to its 1990s borders, before some Russian neighbors or former Soviet states joined. military alliance.

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

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

Ideology of “survival”.

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

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

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

Historically, Finland has navigated these conflicting realities while pandering to Russia’s security concerns, however irrational they may be, while maintaining high defense spending and a standing army compatible with Western allies.

“It has always been madness the idea that a Western country would invade Russia, but we have tried to minimize these concerns by increasing trade and cooperating in other areas,” said Charly Salonius-Pasternak, a leading global security researcher at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs.

He adds, however, that in addition to such policies as conscription (all Finnish men can be called up for military service) and high defense spending, Finnish politicians have consistently sold the public the idea that Finland’s idealistic lifestyle must be maintained at all costs.

Armored vehicles and tanks of the Swedish army participate in a military exercise called

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

There is no doubt that Finland’s membership of NATO would be a major blow to Putin. Not only would it mean those extra 800 miles of border shared with the alliance, but it would symbolically go further in uniting the anti-Putin coalition that emerged after the invasion of Ukraine. Countries that were once neutral now provide funding and weapons to Ukraine, and Putin is an international pariah with fewer allies by the day.

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

Sweden, which borders Finland to the west, is also considering joining the alliance – and Finland’s membership would make that even more likely, as the two countries have embarked on a similar journey since the start of the Ukrainian crisis.

Russian reply

Of course, there are concerns about how Russia might react to Finland expressing its desire to join NATO.

Martti Kari, who previously served as Finnish assistant chief of defense intelligence, told CNN that Russia is already launching a disinformation campaign against it. “The main theme is that Finland is a Nazi country because we fought [the] The Soviet Union in World War II together with Nazi Germany, “he said.

He predicts that Russia could breach Finland’s airspace and disrupt its activities at sea, including shipping, as well as ramp up its intelligence operations against the country.

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

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin addresses a press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz ahead of Chancellery talks 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 intervening period, in which Finland would not be protected from NATO membership but would be in talks, several officials told CNN that they expect alliance members, particularly the UK. and the United States, ensure Finnish security through this process.

Of course, nothing is certain until Finland makes the first move of declaring their intention. But with public approval, political support, and Russia providing every reason for another of its neighbors to join its hated rival, there is little doubt that Putin’s move to diminish NATO’s influence in Europe backfired, spectacularly.