By Justin Malone, Staff Writer
Finland officially became the 31st member state of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on April 4, signaling a major shift in the European security landscape triggered by the war in Ukraine.
The Nordic nation’s accession into NATO, the world’s largest peacetime security alliance, was formally declared during a ceremony at the organization’s headquarters in Brussels on the 74th anniversary of the signing of the Washington Treaty, which established the defense alliance.
At the event, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö presented the nation’s instrument of accession to U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, completing the accession process and following NATO protocol. These documents were handed over to Blinken because the U.S. Department of State acts as the sole depository of NATO.
Finland’s national flag — which features a blue Nordic cross on a white field — was raised among those of the 30 other nations in the alliance as the Finnish national anthem and the NATO hymn played. The ceremony was intended to symbolically display the significance of changing global dynamics as the West buttresses important alliances amongst Russian aggression.
“Finland has today become a member of the defense alliance NATO. The era of military non-alignment in our history has come to an end. A new era begins,” Niinistö stated.
“Each country maximizes its own security. So does Finland. At the same time, NATO membership strengthens our international position and room for maneuver. As a partner, we have long actively participated in NATO activities. In the future, Finland will make a contribution to NATO’s collective deterrence and defense,” he said.
Niinistö added that Finland would be “a reliable ally that strengthens regional stability.”
“Joining NATO is good for Finland, it is good for Nordic security and it is good for NATO as a whole,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said.
“Finland brings substantial and highly capable forces, expertise in national resilience and years of experience working side by side with NATO allies. I am deeply proud to welcome Finland as a full-fledged member of our alliance, and I look forward to also welcoming Sweden as soon as possible,” Stoltenberg noted.
The move also marks a political and strategic setback for Russia, as President Vladimir Putin has long complained about NATO’s growing expansion toward Russia and has wanted to undermine the alliance. With Finland’s membership, NATO doubled its shared borders with Russia.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the government “will be forced to take military-technical and other retaliatory measures to counter the threats to our national security arising from Finland’s accession to NATO.”
It also stated that Finland’s move marks “a fundamental change in the situation in Northern Europe, which had previously been one of the most stable regions in the world.”
Russian Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov expressed that Finland’s accession into the alliance echoes NATO’s anti-Russian progressions.
“This forces us to take countermeasures in tactical and strategic terms,” Peskov said.
Finland, which adopted neutrality after its defeat by the Soviet Union in World War II, was prompted to abandon its neutral status after fear of Russian aggression spread due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The country applied for NATO membership last May alongside Sweden.
Finland had long conducted military exercises with NATO in a partner status before the nation formally applied for membership. Now, Finland’s membership adds one of Western Europe’s most powerful militaries and artillery forces to NATO.
Finland’s entry into the alliance was unblocked when Turkey, the last of the holdout countries in NATO, ratified their accession application in a parliamentary vote on March 30. Finland wanted to join the alliance “hand in hand” with Sweden, but this process was upended because Turkey and Hungary objected to Sweden’s application. Niinistö gave Finland’s ratification of Sweden’s application to Blinken as it joined the alliance.
Stoltenberg said Putin had not been able to “slam NATO’s door shut.”
“Today, we show the world that he failed, that aggression and intimidation do not work. Instead of less NATO, he has achieved the opposite — more NATO — and our door remains firmly open,” Stoltenberg added.