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What can happen if Finland joins NATO

(CNN) — Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has backfired on several fronts. But one of the most disastrous consequences of all for the Russian president is the increasingly likely prospect of Finland joining NATO.

The Nordic nation is expected to announce its interest in joining NATO in the coming days, after its Foreign Affairs Committee drafts a response to the government’s security report, which includes the option of joining the alliance, and the leaders of the country expressed their support for the membership. Afterwards, the Finnish parliament will hold an extraordinary debate on the approval of the safety report’s recommendations.

At that point, NATO is likely to invite the country to talk about joining the alliance.

It is generally believed that this would happen very quickly, since Finland already meets most of the criteria and it is highly unlikely that any NATO member will object.

Multiple recent opinion polls have shown that at least 60% of Finns are now in favor of joining NATO, which is a huge jump from the previous high of around 30% in previous years.

If this plays out as expected, this country of less than 6 million people will have redrawn the map of European security in a way that was previously inconceivable and that may have enormous consequences for Russia.

Before Putin invaded Ukraine, he made clear his belief that NATO had gotten too close to Russia and should return to its 1990s borders, before some of Russia’s neighbors or former Soviet states joined the military alliance. .

Russia currently shares some 1,215 kilometers of land border with five NATO members, according to the alliance. Finland’s accession would mean that a nation with which Russia shares a 1,290-kilometre border would become formally aligned militarily with the United States.

Not only would this be bad news for the Kremlin, but Finland’s addition would be a boon to NATO. Despite its relatively small population, Finland is a major military power that has been unofficially aligned with the West for decades. Its military has for decades used equipment purchased from the United States that is compatible with NATO allies, meaning it could easily join NATO missions if it so chose.

See how Finland prepares in case of Russian aggression 2:51

“survival” ideology

Many believe that the only reason Finland had not joined the alliance before the Ukraine crisis was simple pragmatism.

“Finnish security has always been based on two concepts: first, geography and history; second, idealism and realism,” Alexander Stubb, Finland’s former prime minister, told CNN.

“In an ideal world we want to cooperate with Russia, which we cannot avoid as our geographical neighbor. But we also know from history that the biggest realistic threat to our national security is Russia. Over time, the reality that Russia is willingness to create more chaos in our region has become even clearer, so joining NATO becomes the pragmatic option,” he said.

Historically, Finland has circumvented these conflicting realities by simultaneously satisfying Russia’s security concerns, however irrational, while maintaining high defense spending and a standing army compatible with Western allies.

“The idea of ​​a Western country invading Russia has always been far-fetched, but we have tried to minimize those concerns by boosting trade and cooperating in other areas,” says Charly Salonius-Pasternak, a leading global security researcher at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs. .

Setback for Putin: Sweden and Finland accelerate their entry into NATO 5:52

However, he adds that, in addition to policies such as compulsory military service – all Finnish men can be called up – and high defense spending, Finnish politicians have systematically sold the public the idea that the lifestyle Finland’s idealist must be maintained at all costs.

“Finland’s default ideology has been one of survival. In the last 100 years we have become a strong and sovereign country with a high standard of living. We have had to sacrifice land to keep the peace,” Salonius-Pasternak said. . “That’s why it’s vitally important that our way of life survives, whether through pragmatic diplomacy or by taking a tougher stance against our greatest threat.”

There is no doubt that Finland’s entry into NATO would be a major blow to Putin. Not only would it signify those additional 800 kilometers of shared border with the alliance, but it would symbolically go further in uniting the anti-Putin coalition that has emerged since the invasion of Ukraine. Previously neutral countries are now providing funding and arms to Ukraine and Putin is an international pariah with fewer allies every day.

It would also extend NATO’s influence in northern Europe to the Arctic, an increasingly geopolitically important area due to its natural resources, strategic location and numerous territorial claims, including those of Russia, Finland and Russia. USA.

Finnish soldiers take part in the Arrow 22 military exercise in Niinisalo, Finland, on May 4, 2022. (Credit: ALESSANDRO RAMPAZZO/AFP via Getty Images)

Sweden, Finland’s neighbor to the west, is also considering joining the alliance, and Finland’s accession would make it more likely, as both countries have embarked on a similar path since the start of the Ukraine crisis.

Russia’s response

Of course, there is concern about how Russia might react when Finland expresses its desire to join NATO.

Finland “must be aware of the responsibility and consequences” of joining NATO, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Thursday, adding that Russia “will be forced” to take retaliatory measures if the country joins. to the alliance.

Martti Kari, who previously served as Finland’s deputy head of defense intelligence, told CNN that Russia is already starting a disinformation campaign against him. “The main issue is that Finland is a Nazi country, because we fight against [la] Soviet Union in World War II alongside Nazi Germany,” he said.

It foresees that Russia could violate Finland’s airspace and disrupt its activities at sea, including shipping, as well as increase its intelligence operations against the country.

Setback for Putin: Sweden and Finland accelerate their entry into NATO 5:52

Håkon Lunde Saxi, an associate professor at the Norwegian Defense University College, believes that any move towards Finland’s NATO membership “would likely lead to a Russian military build-up along NATO’s new border with Russia, which in itself would not be beneficial for Finnish or European security”.

However, he believes the benefits would far outweigh the “possible negative consequences of a somewhat larger Russian military footprint along the Finnish border”.

And despite concerns about what would happen in the intervening period, in which Finland would not be protected by NATO membership but instead would be in negotiations, multiple officials have told CNN that they hope alliance members, especially the United Kingdom and the United States, guarantee Finnish security during this process.

Of course, nothing is certain until Finland takes the first step by declaring its intention. But with public approval, political support, and Russia providing every reason for another one of its neighbors to join its hated rival, there is little doubt that Putin’s ploy to diminish NATO’s influence in Europe has backfired, spectacularly. .

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