By Ivy Lewis, Staff Writer
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted Finland to consider joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a security alliance with 30 member nations. This goes against the nation’s long history of military non-alignment.
Prime Minister Sanna Marin announced that Finland would likely make a decision on whether or not to become a member of NATO within weeks.
Finnish politicians are scheduled to have internal talks and meet in parliament to reach consensus on the matter.
“The difference between being a partner and being a member is very clear and will remain so. There is no other way to have security guarantees than under NATO’s deterrence and common defense as guaranteed by NATO’s Article Five,” Marin said in an interview.
Finland shares an 810-mile border with Russia. The country is strongly considering joining NATO, despite Russia’s threats that it would deploy nuclear weaponry against it and other Baltic countries should they join.
“There can be no more talk of any nuclear-free status for the Baltic –– the balance must be restored,” Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council and former Russian president, said.
Russia has the largest collection of nuclear missiles and warheads in the world and is a global leader in hypersonic missile technology.
Medvedev also suggested that Moscow would need to focus efforts on increasing air forces, land army and naval presence, as well as invest in its military, should Finland officially become a member.
The war in Ukraine has dramatically changed public opinion on NATO, with a recent poll suggesting that 68% of Finnish citizens are now in favor of joining. Should Finland accept the invitation, each of the 30 member states would have to agree to their membership.
NATO was formed in 1949 following World War II in response to the Soviet Union and serves as an international security council.
The bloc offers collective security, and member states agree to mutually defend one another from aggression. An attack against one of the 30 member states is treated as an attack on all, and military and diplomatic assistance is offered to NATO countries that are being threatened.
The Finnish government has made monetary contributions, participated in exchanges of information with members and been generally viewed as a strong ally with NATO over the past several decades.
In 1994, Finland joined the Partnership for Peace initiative which sought to improve relations between non-member states and NATO. Consequently, should Finland’s political parties reach consensus on whether or not they want to join, they may accept.
“Finland in particular but also Sweden are very stoic on these matters and see Russia with clear eyes. And that’s why I think ultimately they will join NATO,” Sean Monaghan, a visiting fellow with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, suggested.
Finland will be internally debating the matter over coming weeks among parliament. The Finnish Parliament, a unicameral legislature, consists of 200 members.
Prime Minister Marin noted that Finland will probably make a choice very quickly as tensions continue to rise between Russia and the rest of the international community.
“I won’t give any kind of timetable when we will make our decisions, but I think it will happen quite fast –– within weeks, not within months,” Marin said.