By: Charley Albert
When Vladimir Putin initially invaded Ukraine this past February, many knew that the attack would precipitate changes in societies, governments, and relationships between nations across the globe. Recently, the first example of such change has arisen with Finland announcing its support to join NATO.
NATO, or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, is a military alliance that was first created after World War Two. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and other world leaders created this organization to prevent the expansion of the then USSR– or the Soviet Union– in Europe and the power of nationalist militaries around the globe. It also sought to create unity throughout the European governments and the world overall (nato.int). Today, thirty countries are a part of the NATO alliance.
Ever since the second world war, Finland has remained neutral from such alliances. During the war, they were invaded by the USSR, and until recently they found it most beneficial for security and economic reasons to maintain their neutrality (cnn.com). However, their perspective shifted once the attack on Ukraine was launched.
Finland shares its eastern border with Russia. The citizens and government officials of Finland knew, and had been warned, that if they were to join NATO, Russia would retaliate (cnn.com). Thus, being so close to Russia, the Finnish people had been unwilling to risk stirring up tensions, as it could lead to threats of national security. Vladimir Putin himself stated that this decision of the leaders of Finland to join NATO was a “mistake” (thegaurdian.com). The invasion of Ukraine, however, has led Finland to believe that joining NATO would be the safest option for the nation despite Putin’s threats.
Despite the ominous message from Russia, many people of Finland now have new, changed perspectives about Russia and NATO. They believe that staying out of NATO is no longer the safest or most strategic option for their country. A poll was recorded recently saying, “76 percent of Finns had supported joining NATO” (npr.org)
The process of joining NATO will take several months. The ruling party of Finland, the Social Democratic Party, is in favor of the membership, so it will not be too complicated for their parliament to approve the motion. However, the member nations of NATO need to approve Finland’s entrance into the alliance (cnn.com). This step will take the most time. Fortunately, Finland has already met all of the necessary requirements for membership, including having a democratic government and tolerance of diversity (state.gov).
Finland is taking a threat to its national security by joining NATO, however its leaders and people now believe that the risk of staying out of the alliance outweighs the risk of joining it. Russia has warned the nation of the consequences–the tensions, and maybe worse– that will arise from joining NATO. But, Finland, though going against Russia’s wishes, will gain protection from the members of NATO. By joining the alliance, Finland is taking a stand against Putin and his invasion of Ukraine, the action is sending a message right back to Russia.
If their membership goes through, which is extremely likely, NATO’s boundaries will reach the 830-mile long border between Finland and Russia (cnn.com). As Finish president Sauli Niinisto stated on the day of the announcement, “This is a historic day, A new era begins.”