Finland joins NATO, doubling down on the alliance with Russia in a blow to Putin

(CNN) Finland It officially became the 31st member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization on Tuesday, marking a major shift in the security landscape in northeastern Europe. About 1,300 km (830 mi) to the borders of the alliance with Russia.

The Scandinavian country’s accession was sealed during an official ceremony at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Tuesday.

Finland’s admission to the US-led security alliance is a blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has done just that long sought To undermine NATO, and before invading Ukraine, he demanded that the bloc refrain from further expansion.

Instead, the invasion prompted non-aligned Finland and Sweden to abandon their neutrality and seek protection within NATO, although Sweden’s bid to join the bloc was impeded by alliance members Turkey and Hungary.

On the eve of Tuesday’s ceremony, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced the raising of the Finnish flag for the first time at the alliance’s headquarters in Belgium, saying “It will be a good day for Finland’s security, for the security of the Nordic countries and for NATO.” As a whole.”

But Russia has it warned That further NATO expansion would not bring more stability to Europe, he said on Monday that he would increase forces near Finland if the alliance sent any troops or equipment to the new member state.

“We will strengthen our military capabilities in the west and northwest if NATO members deploy forces and equipment on Finnish territory,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko told the official Russian News Agency. RIA Novosti.

Prior to Tuesday, Russia had shared about 1,215 kilometers (755 miles) of land borders with five NATO members. Finland’s accession More than twice NATO’s land border with Russia.

What does that mean for Finland and the Alliance

Finland’s NATO membership guarantees the Nordic country access to the entire alliance’s resources in the event of an attack.

They include the protections afforded by NATO’s Article 5 principle, which states that an attack on one NATO member is an attack on all members. It has been a cornerstone of the 30-member alliance since its founding in 1949 as a counterweight to the Soviet Union.

NATO membership also better integrates Finnish forces in training and planning with NATO allies.

Working with NATO is no stranger to the country, as its forces regularly participate in NATO exercises under partner status.

The Finnish Defense Forces also operate some of the same weapons systems used by other NATO members, including US-made F/A-18 fighters, German-designed Leopard main battle tanks, and K9 Howitzers used by Norway and Estonia among others.

Helsinki has also signed on to the F-35 stealth fighter program, which will allow its air force to work seamlessly with NATO members including the United States, United Kingdom, Norway, Italy, Canada, Poland, Denmark and the Netherlands.

A November report from the Wilson Center in Washington lists three main areas in which Finland benefits from NATO: reserve forces, access to technology, and artillery forces.

The report stated that “Finnish artillery forces are the largest and best equipped in Western Europe”.

“With around 1,500 artillery guns, including 700 howitzers, 700 heavy mortars, and 100 rocket launcher systems, the Finnish artillery possesses more artillery firepower than the combined armies of Poland, Germany, Norway and Sweden can currently muster,” the statement said.

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The Wilson Center report also noted Finland’s strong record in cybersecurity, noting that the country is home to Nokia, a “major provider of 5G infrastructure,” and one of three major 5G infrastructure providers in the world, along with Sweden’s Ericsson and China’s Huawei.

It said Finland could mobilize 900,000 reservists who were trained as conscripts in its armed forces. It says that the strength of the Finnish forces in wartime is 280,000 soldiers.

Militants from the Finnish Armed Forces march during the Independence Day parade in the city of Hamina in December 2022.

Sweden is still waiting

Finland’s accession comes days after Turkey’s parliament voted to certify the country’s membership, removing the last hurdle for the country to join NATO and ending months of delay.

Finnish and Swedish public support for joining NATO increased in the aftermath of the invasion of Ukraine. “Everything changed when Russia invaded Ukraine,” outgoing Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said last April. “The mentality of the people in Finland, as well as in Sweden, has changed and transformed in a very big way.”

NATO follows an open-door policy, which means that any country can be invited to join if it expresses interest, as long as it is able and willing to abide by the principles of the alliance’s founding treaty.

However, under the accession rules, any member state can veto a new country from joining.

The vast majority of NATO members welcomed the requests of Finland and Sweden, but two countries – Turkey and Hungary – began to disrupt the process.

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Turkey and Hungary later softened their position on Finland’s accession, opening the door to its membership in March, while continuing to block Sweden’s membership application.

However, there is hope for Sweden’s bid. On Monday, Stoltenberg said Finland’s accession “in itself is something we should celebrate” but that it was also good for Sweden.

“It makes Sweden more integrated into NATO and makes Sweden safer,” Stoltenberg said. “While we celebrate and enjoy that Finland is now a full member, we must continue to work to finish Sweden’s accession process.”

CNN’s Brad Lyndon contributed to this report.

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