NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin discuss Finland's accession to NATO membership.

Finland Joining NATO Marks a Political and Military Disaster for Russia and Putin

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) adds a new member state on Tuesday, bringing the alliance members to 31 nations.

Finland’s path to NATO membership was cleared on Friday when Hungary’s parliament voted in favor. Many of Putin’s friends had counted on Hungarian President Viktor Orban to block Finland because of his supposed subservience to Putin (Hungary’s Viktor Orban Clears the Way for Finland to Join NATO in a Matter of Months). Instead, the 182-6 vote clearly demonstrated the breadth of support for Finland’s accession. The Russians hoped that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would prevent the last domino from falling. But hope is not a method, and on Friday, he gave his blessing to a 276-0 vote by the National Assembly. Erdogan had vetoed the joint accession of Sweden and Finland over Sweden’s refusal to extradite political enemies of Erdogan to Turkey (Finland and Sweden Prepare to Join NATO as Turkey’s Erdogan Withdraws His Veto).

This episode reflects a geopolitical blunder that may only be rivaled by Hitler declaring war on the United States or anything done by Italy since the end of the Roman Empire. Not only did Putin push neutral-leaning countries off the fence, show his military was a paper Pomeranian, and that his threats were meaningless, one of the stated objectives of Putin’s sashay to Kiev was to prevent NATO from getting closer to Russia. Russia’s border with NATO members was 1,215km at the time of the invasion. He has succeeded in doubling it.

While Finnish opinion of and trust in Russia has not been terribly high since Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Finland in 1939, it has had a long-time policy of neutrality. A plurality of Finns opposed Finnish NATO membership until 2021. However, less than two months after Putin’s lawless attack on Ukraine, Finnish public opinion had shifted radically, and the historically Russia-friendly ruling coalition in Finland had voted to ask for NATO membership (see Putin’s Threats to Sweden and Finland Are Much More Real Than They Are Being Given Credit For and Finland Announces It Will Join NATO, Sweden to Follow, While Moscow Makes Its Usual Threats).

Finland Joining NATO Marks a Political and Military Disaster for Russia and Putin
CREDIT: Finnish Business and Policy Forum – EVA

This shift in attitude about NATO was accompanied by perceptions about Russia as a neighbor. But, just as I’ve noted in my Ukraine updates, the untold story of this war is the demolition of Russian cultural and political capital in Central and Eastern Europe.

Finland Joining NATO Marks a Political and Military Disaster for Russia and Putin
CREDIT: Finnish Business and Policy Forum – EVA

The change in how Finland and other nations view Russia will persist for generations after Putin’s War ends. The new NATO border fundamentally changes the balance of power in the Arctic and the dynamics of Russia-Finland trade. Of course, musings on Russian state television about “liberating” Finland don’t do much to help matters.

The next brick in the wall will be Sweden joining NATO. Right now, its application is held up by Turkey’s insistence that Kurds who’ve been granted political asylum in Sweden be extradited. That probably isn’t going to happen. Given the events of the last week, it may not need to.

Last Monday, Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden agreed to combine their air forces into a single military organization; see Nordic Countries Combat Growing Russian Tensions By Combining Air Forces. This allows those countries to consolidate supply and maintenance operations, and improve interoperability. What it also does is create a military alliance composed of three NATO and one non-NATO member, and the combination of air forces guarantees that any move against Sweden by Russia will inevitably involve NATO.

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