Finland’s Historic Approval for NATO Membership: What it Means for Europe and Russia
Turkey’s parliament has voted to approve Finland’s membership in NATO, marking a historic step for the traditionally non-aligned Nordic country that shares an 830-mile border with Russia. This move removes the final obstacle to Finland's accession into the defense alliance as its 31st member. Hungary, which had approved Finland’s accession, is now delaying a decision on Sweden's membership, despite expressing support for NATO’s expansion. Ankara has yet to approve of Sweden’s membership bid, while Hungary, whose Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been on friendly terms with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, has approved Finland’s accession but not Sweden’s.
For several decades, Finland and Sweden have avoided aligning with NATO to prevent provoking Moscow. The neutral status of the two Scandinavian countries was re-evaluated when Russian President Vladimir Putin directed his troops to invade Ukraine. Finland and Sweden have been inseparable since the conclusion of World War II, maintaining military neutrality and declining to align with either NATO or the USSR. Following the conclusion of the Cold War, numerous efforts were made by different countries to join NATO, but these endeavors were largely unsuccessful. The situation underwent a significant transformation following Russia's invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. Polls conducted shortly after the invasion indicated a significant surge in favor of NATO membership. In response, the governments promptly submitted their bids on May 18th.
Adding Finland to NATO would extend the alliance's border with Russia by over 800 miles and introduce one of Europe's most well-protected and well-equipped nations to the group. As a response to the aggression towards Ukraine, which increased the perceived possibility of Russian threats to overall European security, Finland abandoned its long-standing approach of handling its strained ties with Russia.
While Sweden's current bid to join up is still being blocked by Turkey and Hungary, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed Finland's accession, stating that “This will make the whole NATO family stronger & safer”. Furthermore, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö thanked NATO’s 30 member states for supporting his country’s bid to join the alliance, adding that “We look forward to welcoming Sweden to join us as soon as possible.”
In conclusion, Finland's accession to NATO represents a major military shift for Helsinki as it abandons decades of official non-alignment. Furthermore, it is predicted to put the organisation in much better stead to prevent more Russian aggression. However, it is still uncertain when Sweden will be able to join the alliance, with both Turkey and Hungary withholding approval despite expressing support for NATO’s expansion.
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