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Finland Officially Joins NATO

Finland NATO
Finland has officially been named the 31st member of NATO, marking a major shift in the security landscape in northeastern Europe. Credit: NATO

Finland joined NATO on Tuesday in a “truly historic” moment for the military alliance, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said, adding that the move was a direct result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Nordic nation ditched decades of neutrality when it announced its intention to join NATO last year after Moscow launched its war in Ukraine.

“Not so many years ago we thought it was unthinkable that Finland would become a member. Now they are a full-fledged member of our alliance and that is truly historic, and something that demonstrates that Finland is a sovereign, independent country. They make their own decisions, and NATO is an alliance of democracies with an open door to democratic sovereign nations [such] as Finland,” Stoltenberg said in a Brussels press conference.

“Putin had declared [the] goal of the invasion of Ukraine [was] to get less NATO, he wanted less NATO along his borders, he wanted to close NATO’s door,” Stoltenberg said. “He is getting exactly the opposite.”

Although the Nordic state shares an 808-mile (1,300-kilometer) border with Russia, Stoltenberg told reporters that NATO troops would only be stationed in Finland with the country’s consent.

“By becoming a full-fledged member we are removing the room for miscalculation in Moscow about NATO’s readiness to protect Finland, and that makes Finland safer and NATO stronger and all of us safer.”

Stoltenberg also told reporters he anticipated that Sweden, which announced its intention to join the alliance at the same time as Finland, would become a member “soon.”

NATO has an open-door policy, which means any country can be invited to join the alliance. But under accession rules, any member state can veto a new country from joining. Turkey and Hungary are both stalling Sweden’s membership.

Russia responds to Finland’s accession to NATO

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned that Russia would be “watching closely” what happens in Finland, describing NATO’s enlargement as a “violation of our security and our national interests”.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has claimed that Belarusian aircraft have been upgraded to be able to carry out nuclear strikes, in response to NATO’s expansion.

“Part of the Belarusian attack aircraft acquired the ability to strike at enemy targets with nuclear weapons,” Shoigu said on Tuesday. “In addition, the Iskander-M operational-tactical missile system was handed over to the Armed Forces of Belarus. It can use missiles, both conventional and nuclear.”

Shoigu went on to say Belarusian forces were being trained on the Iskander system in Russia.

The Russian defense minister claimed the decision to give Belarus the nuclear-capable systems was a response to NATO’s expansion toward Russia’s border.

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