Thursday, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin announced, “Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay.” Finland will officially apply for membership early next week and will be a NATO member by the weekend. Finland, a nation whose name became synonymous with neutrality during the Cold War, brings to an end over two months of debate kicked off by Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. The move has been anticipated ever since Hungary’s Viktor Orban agreed to support Finland’s application for membership; Hungary’s Viktor Orban Clears the Way for Finland to Join NATO in a Matter of Months.
“The war started by Russia jeopardizes the security and stability of the whole of Europe,” said Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto. “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has altered the European and Finnish security environment.”
To put the decision in perspective, six months ago, about 20% of Finns favored NATO membership; now, over 80% want to join.
Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto made it very clear to Vladimir Putin that the only reason Finland is joining NATO is threats made by Russia to Finland in conjunction with Putin’s War. As I posted back when the war started, Finland, in particular, was very vulnerable to Russian territorial claims; see Putin’s Threats to Sweden and Finland Are Much More Real Than They Are Being Given Credit For.
Russia, of course, is not happy. This is a translation of the statement churned out by Sergey Lavrov’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs:
For decades, the policy of military non-alignment served as the basis for stability in the Northern European region, provided a reliable level of security for the Finnish state, and was a solid basis for building mutually beneficial cooperation and partnerships between our countries, in which the role of the military factor was reduced to zero.
Neither Russia’s assurances of the absence of any hostile intentions towards Finland, nor the long history of good-neighborly and mutually beneficial cooperation between our countries convinced Helsinki of the advantages of maintaining a policy of military non-alignment.
The goal of NATO, whose member countries vigorously convinced the Finnish side that there was no alternative to membership in the alliance, is clear – to continue expanding towards the borders of Russia, to create another flank for a military threat to our country. But why should Finland turn its territory into a line of military confrontation with the Russian Federation, while losing independence in making its own decisions, history will judge.
The Russian side has repeatedly noted that the choice of ways to ensure its national security is up to the authorities and people of Finland. However, Helsinki must be aware of the responsibility and consequences of such a move. Finland’s accession to NATO will cause serious damage to bilateral Russian-Finnish relations, maintaining stability and security in the Northern European region. Russia will be forced to take retaliatory steps, both of a military-technical and other nature, in order to stop the threats to its national security that arise in this regard.
Joining NATO will also be a direct violation of the international legal obligations of Finland, primarily the Paris Peace Treaty of 1947, which provides for the obligation of the parties not to enter into alliances or participate in coalitions directed against one of them, as well as the 1992 Treaty between Russia and Finland on the basis of relations, which established that the parties will refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of the other party, will not use or allow the use of their territory for armed aggression against the other party. However, given the current indifference of the collective West to international law, such behavior has become the norm.
We will react according to the situation.
“Long history of good-neighborly and mutually beneficial cooperation.”…lolol.
Russia threatens Finland with “retaliatory steps, both of a military-technical and other nature.” It also accuses Finland of violating the Paris Peace Treaty of 1947(spoiler alert, there is no such provision in the treaty, and Russia was not a party to the treaty in any case) and a 1992 Treaty between Russia and Finland (this treaty appears to do just the opposite of what the Russian Foreign Ministry claims; it requires the parties to observe “the inviolability of borders, territorial integrity, the peaceful settlement of disputes, non-interference in internal affairs”). No one is sure what retaliation “of a military-technical nature” is, but we have seen the term used before. This quote is from February 17, a week before Putin’s War started.
Meanwhile Russia, in its letter to the U.S., reiterated its demands for new binding commitments, including that Ukraine would never join NATO, that missiles would not be deployed near Russia’s borders, and that NATO pull all of its forces out of Eastern Europe.
“In the absence of the readiness of the American side to agree on firm, legally binding guarantees to ensure our security from the United States and its allies,” the letter stated, “Russia will be forced to respond, including by implementing measures of a military-technical nature.”
Russia’s deputy UN ambassador, Dmitry Polyanskiy, said Finland had become a target.
Speaking to UnHerd’s Freddie Sayers, First Deputy Representative of Russia to the UN Dmitry Polyanskiy has said that Sweden and Finland joining the bloc would turn them overnight from neutral into enemy countries and become a “target” for Russia.
“They know that the moment they become members of NATO it will imply certain mirror moves on the Russian side,” he said. “If there are NATO detachments in those territories, these territories would become a target — or a possible target — for a strike.”
“NATO is a very unfriendly bloc to us — it is an enemy and NATO itself admitted that Russia is an enemy. It means that Finland and Sweden all of a sudden, instead of neutral countries, become part of the enemy and they bear all the risks. So they would bear certain defence risks of course, certain economic costs — but it’s up to them to decide… They were living normally as good neighbours with us for tens of years; if they suddenly choose to become part of a very unfriendly bloc, it’s up to them.
The diplomat implied, however, that Russia was not especially concerned about the decision, and that it didn’t change the security situation in Europe.
“I don’t think it will really be a blow to the security of Russia that these two states become members of NATO — hopefully they won’t but if they do it would be the worst solution for them, but not for Russia. Russia is ready to face NATO threats, Russia has made the necessary precautions for this. It doesn’t change very much the security situation in Europe, which is dominated and aggravated by the NATO threat to Russia for many years.”
Of course, no story about Russia these days can be complete without referencing Russia nuking someone.
“Such a conflict always has the risk of turning into a full-fledged nuclear war. This will be a disastrous scenario for everyone,” former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy chairman of the country’s Security Council, wrote on Telegramhttps://t.co/upZPsEG14W
— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) May 12, 2022
The most noticeable thing about the tone of the Russian response is the acceptance of Finland and Sweden joining NATO as inevitable. Russia doesn’t say Finland can’t join; there is just a stark realization that the security environment has changed.
One immediate threat of retaliation was cutting off Finland’s natural gas supply.
⚡️Media: Russia may cut off gas supply to Finland on May 13.
Key Finnish politicians have been warned that Russia may cut off the gas supply to Finland on May 13 due to the country’s potential accession to NATO, Finland’s media outlet Iltalehti reports citing anonymous sources.
— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) May 12, 2022
Sweden is next.
This week, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed a security pact with Sweden guaranteeing to come to Sweden’s aid if it is attacked before it becomes a NATO member.
While these security agreements are often framed as a stop-gap measure as Sweden and Finland transit to NATO membership, Johnson emphasized Britain's enduring commitment to Northern European security https://t.co/DfQo75ABYG
— Samuel Ramani (@SamRamani2) May 11, 2022
Like Finland, Sweden undoubtedly sees the potential Russian threat much differently after February 24. One Swedish county, the island of Gotland, is barely 100 miles from the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. Given Russia’s current mood, it would be easy to see an attempt made to seize the island. Russian Attack Aircraft With Nuclear Weapons On Board Violate Swedish Air Space as Sweden Mulls NATO Membership
WHY WOULD THEY JOIN NATO? Territorial encroachment. 0n 30 MAR, Swedish jets intercepted RU nuclear-armed bombers off Gotland. Russian subs have been detected in Swedish waters in 1962, 1966, 1969, 1974, 1976, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1987,1988, 1992, 2011 and 2014. pic.twitter.com/kwEqZUupFR
— Chuck Pfarrer (@ChuckPfarrer) May 12, 2022
A war that started to prevent NATO expansion in Ukraine has added two more NATO members that share borders with Russia. Ironically, even six months ago, the thought of Sweden and Finland in NATO would have drawn guffaws. Even more ironic is that Russia went to war over a fear of encirclement and has tightened the noose about its own neck.
Rossiya-1 host Vladimir Solovyov shared this map of Russia's encirclement by NATO and its allies pic.twitter.com/Lgp020QOws
— Samuel Ramani (@SamRamani2) May 11, 2022
The next time someone tries to convince you that Putin is playing multi-dimensional chess, just remember this example of his political shrewdness.