Finland Officially Joins NATO as 31st Member

April 4, 2023


Finland officially gave up more than 100 years of military neutrality to become a member of NATO on Tuesday.

Finland signed on as the 31st member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which is the largest military alliance in the world.

The Nordic nation, which shares a border with Russia, had applied to join NATO last May in response to Russia’s February 2022 invasion of its sovereign neighbor, Ukraine.

Today’s membership announcement is being hailed by other NATO member nations as a strategic and political blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has long sought to weaken the alliance. 

“When Putin launched his brutal war of aggression against the people of Ukraine, he thought he could divide Europe and NATO. He was wrong,” said President Biden. “Today, we are more united than ever. And together—strengthened by our newest ally, Finland—we will continue to preserve transatlantic security, defend every inch of NATO territory, and meet any and all challenges we face.”

Just ahead of accepting documents that made Finland’s membership official, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “I’m tempted to say this is maybe the one thing that we can thank Mr. Putin for because he once again here precipitated something he claims to want to prevent by Russia’s aggression, causing many countries to believe that they have to do more to look out for their own defense and to make sure that they can deter possible Russian aggression going forward.”

The U.S. State Department is the repository of NATO texts concerning membership.

Russia has warned that it would be forced to take “retaliatory measures” to address what it views as security threats due to Finland’s membership. It has already warned that it would bolster its military presence on its border with Finland should NATO deploy any additional troops or weaponry inside that country. 

However, it’s not clear what additional military resources Russia could send to the Finnish border as it has already deployed the bulk of its most capable military units to Ukraine.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto maintained defiance, saying, “Russia tried to create a sphere around them and, well, we are not a sphere. I’m sure that Finns themselves feel more secure, that we are living in a more stable world.”

Finland had planned to enter the alliance jointly with its neighbor Sweden, which applied at the same time, breaking its more than 200 years of military neutrality. However, Sweden’s application has been held up by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over Stockholm’s unwillingness to prosecute anti-Islam activists and pro-Kurdish groups inside Sweden. 

A nation’s membership application must be approved unanimously, and Turkey was the last NATO nation to ratify Finland’s membership. 

On Tuesday, Niinisto said Finland’s membership “is not complete without that of Sweden. The persistent efforts for a rapid Swedish membership continue.”

“Sweden is not left alone,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday. “Sweden is as close as it can come as a full-fledged member.”

Finland’s entry was marked with a flag-raising ceremony at NATO headquarters in Brussels and a meeting of the alliance’s foreign ministers, including Secretary Blinken. 

Read more exclusive news from Political IQ.

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