Finland has become the 31st member of NATO, with the Finnish flag being raised at the NATO headquarters in Brussels. The accession of Finland to the Western alliance is a significant setback for Russia’s Vladimir Putin, who repeatedly complained about NATO’s expansion before his invasion of Ukraine. Finland and Sweden formally applied to join NATO last May due to Russia’s war, and after the Ukraine invasion, they chose the protection of NATO’s Article Five.
If Finland were attacked, all NATO members, including the US, would come to its aid. The move has prompted a surge in Finnish public opinion, with 80% in favor of joining NATO for increased security. The NATO Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg, has stated that this move will make Finland safer and NATO stronger, and Putin’s goal of having less NATO along its borders and no more membership in Europe has been thwarted.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, cautioned that Russia would be closely monitoring the situation in Finland, labeling NATO’s expansion as a “breach of our security and national interests.”
Sweden’s application to join NATO has stalled, with accusations from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Stockholm has supported Kurdish militants and allowed them to stage demonstrations on the streets. Hungary has also not yet approved Sweden’s bid to join the alliance.
However, the NATO Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg, has assured that Sweden will become the next member to join, and NATO will ensure that it happens.
Helsinki’s journey to NATO accession has been brief, lasting less than a year. The accession ceremony will coincide with the 74th anniversary of NATO’s founding in 1949, and Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto will hand over the accession papers to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
According to US Ambassador to NATO Julianne Smith, Finland is an excellent ally that shares NATO’s values and is very capable, and she expects a seamless transition into its proper seat at the table. She expressed her hope that Sweden would also join the alliance at the next NATO summit in Lithuania in July.