Finland became the 31st member country to join NATO on Tuesday. Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto presented U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken with his country's instrument of accession, making the admission legal. The Secretary General of the Alliance, Jens Stoltenberg, spoke of a "historic day." Finland thus gets "a rock-solid guarantee" in its defense, he said in Brussels. "Article 5, all for one, one for all, applies to Finland from today."
In the afternoon, the Finnish flag was to be raised for the first time at the alliance headquarters, in the presence of the foreign ministers of all member states. The government in Helsinki had decided to give up its non-alignment status after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and on May 18, 2022, together with Sweden, applied to join the alliance. The in turn invited both states to join in late June, but Turkey and Hungary have not yet ratified Sweden's admission.
On Tuesday, the Turkish government had deposited its instrument of ratification for Finland's accession with the United States government, which is the depositary under the NATO treaty; that completed the ratification process. Stoltenberg then invited Finland to join. It was a symbolic day for NATO. On April 4, 74 years ago, the alliance had been founded with the North Atlantic Treaty.
The new member will extend the alliance's land border with Russia by 1340 kilometers, making it more than twice as long as before. From the allies' point of view, the accession is nevertheless a security gain because the country, with a population of 5.6 million, has modern, powerful armed forces with a strength of 30,000 active soldiers. In the event of a conflict, up to 280,000 soldiers could be mobilized quickly, and in an emergency, up to 900,000. In the current year, it is expected to spend a good two percent of its economic power on defense.
"Finland is one of the few countries in Europe that did not reduce its investment in defense and the readiness of its armed forces at the end of the Cold War," Stoltenberg had said earlier on Monday. He also pointed out that Helsinki is acquiring more than sixty F-35s, currently the most modern fighter aircraft in the world.
NATO will not station any more troops in Finland for the time being. It always emphasizes that its expansion is not directed against Russia. Nevertheless, it will change the strategic situation on the eastern flank. For example, the Baltic Sea will largely become an internal sea for the alliance. In the event of conflict, this would severely restrict the mobility of Russia's Baltic Fleet, which is stationed in Kaliningrad and St. Petersburg.
The Baltic States, especially Estonia, thus gain strategic depth, which facilitates their defense. The situation is also changing in the far north, especially on the Kola Peninsula, where Russia's Arctic Fleet is stationed with its nuclear-armed submarines and long-range bombers. In the event of conflict, the alliance could cut off the peninsula.
"We will strengthen our military potential in the western and northwestern directions," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko said Monday, according to a report by the state-run RIA news agency. If more NATO troops are deployed in Finland, he said, further steps will be taken to ensure Russia's security.
Image by Merja Partanen