Finland has finally joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in a move that doubles Russia’s border with the world’s biggest security alliance, thus dealing a strategic blow to President Vladimir Putin, who has long complained about NATO’s expansion and partly used that as a justification for the invasion of Ukraine. Finland shares a 1,340-kilometer (832-mile) border with Russia.
Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto Tuesday handed over his nation's accession documents to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at NATO headquarters in Brussels, thus becoming the 31st member of the US-led military bloc. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also participated in the ceremony.
Helsinki leaving its neutrality status came at a price: Moscow announced Tuesday that Finland has lost its special status.
“As we have warned on multiple occasions, the Russian Federation will have to respond with military-technical, as well as other measures in order to address national security threats arising from Finland joining NATO,” Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement although no specific steps have been announced yet. The response will depend “on the specific terms on which Finland joins NATO, including the deployment of NATO’s military infrastructure and offensive weapons on its territory,” the ministry explained.
The latest expansion of the bloc has greatly damaged the security situation in the whole of Northern Europe, which for decades “used to be one of the most stable regions in the world,” the ministry went on. “The line of contact between NATO and the Russian Federation’s border has more than doubled,” it added.
By joining NATO, Finland “has given up on its unique identity and lost its independence,” forfeiting the “special status in international affairs” stemming from its decades-long policy of non-alignment.
“Finland became a minor NATO member without the possibility to influence any decisions. It has lost its ability to have a say in international affairs,” the ministry concluded. “Make no mistake, Finland’s accession to NATO will have a negative effect on the bilateral relations between Russia and Finland.”
But Blinken welcomed Finland's decision: “I’m tempted to say this is maybe the one thing that we can thank Mr. Putin for because he once again here precipitated something he claims to want to prevent by Russia’s aggression, causing many countries to believe that they have to do more to look out for their own defense and to make sure that they can deter possible Russian aggression going forward,” he said.
”It’s a great day for Finland and an important day for NATO, too,” said Finnish President Sauli Niinisto. “Russia tried to create a sphere around them and, well, we are not a sphere. I’m sure that Finns themselves feel more secure, that we are living in a more stable world.”
Neighboring Sweden, which has avoided military alliances for more than 200 years, has also applied. But objections from NATO members Turkey and Hungary have delayed the process.