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FROM NEUTRAL TO NATO: Finland's President Tells Putin Country Will Join Alliance
Finland shares an expansive, 830-mile border with Russia
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Sauli Niinisto, Findland’s president, told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin Saturday that his country is going to apply for NATO membership and said the phone conversation was “direct and straight-forward and it was conducted without aggravations.”
Top officials from Helsinki issued a joint statement on Thursday that Finland will move to join NATO after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, prompting Moscow to warn that it will be forced to take retaliatory steps.
The Kremlin issued its own statement and said Finland's abandonment "of its traditional policy of military neutrality would be an error since there are no threats to Finland’s security."
Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin said they believe NATO is the best option for Finland and that membership would “strengthen” its security. They said they hope Finland joins NATO “without delay” and believe the alliance would also benefit from its membership. (A parliamentary debate in Helsinki and vote were expected on Monday.)
Finland has a formidable military in its own right despite a population of 5.5 million. The country has about the same number of reservists as Germany that has a population of 83 million.
Finland shares an expansive, 830-mile border with Russia and was invaded by its neighbor during WWII, which resulted in a brutal confrontation that ultimately resulted in Helsinki and Moscow signing a peace treaty in 1948. The treaty included Finland's assurances that it will not join NATO.
The Trends Journal magazine has reported on Helsinki's push for NATO after polls showed the country's population shifting in their opinions about membership. (SEE: “FINLAND: NO NATO FOR NOW,” and “RUSSIA WARNS FINLAND AND SWDEN: DON’T JOIN NATO.”) A poll taken after the invasion showed that 62 percent of the country’s population supported NATO membership, which was up from 53 percent at the start of the war.
Last month, Dmitry Medvedev, the former Russian president and chairman of Russia’s Security Council, warned Finland and Sweden against joining NATO and said Moscow would have to beef up its military presence in the region if they joined the alliance.
“In this case, it will no longer be possible to talk about any non-nuclear status of the Baltic—the balance must be restored. Until now, Russia has not taken such measures and was not going to take them,” Medvedev said.
Stockholm has been more reluctant to join NATO, the Financial Times reported. The paper said Sweden only started to take NATO membership seriously after "Finland indicated it was likely to join regardless of what Sweden did, robbing Stockholm of its sole credible alternative: a defense alliance with Helsinki." The New York Times reported that Helsinki’s move could force Stockholm’s hand. The Finns co-ordinate their defense policies closely with Sweden, The Economist reported. Both are formally neutral.
TRENDPOST: We pointed that there are concerns that these two countries could be further provoking Russia into war. Samuel Ramani, a professor of international relations at the University of Oxford, tweeted last month that Russian Senator Andrei Klimov called NATO a "suicide club" and warned that “Sweden and Finland could meet the fate of the Azovstal steel fighters in Mariupol if they join NATO.”
NATO officials have said they will speed up the process for Finland if it applies for membership, which is a stark reminder that Ukraine was denied full membership prior to the war against Russia.
Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary general, said he believes the process of giving Sweden and Finland membership will happen "quite quickly," the BBC reported. The Biden administration also said it would support such a move.
Dmitry Polyansky, Russia's deputy UN representative, told Ria, the Russian news agency, that both countries would be possible targets for Russia if they join the alliance.
British PM Promises Support to Sweden and Finland if Attacked
Boris Johnson, the British Prime Minister, said Wednesday that the United Kingdom would come to the defense of Finland and Sweden if attacked by an outside military.
Johnson, who has been one of the most outspoken critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin, also promised the countries that the U.K. would provide security assurances during any transition into NATO, The Financial Times reported.
The prime minister was not specific about the defense that would be provided, promised that “upon request from the affected country assist each other in a variety of ways, which may include military means.”
“This declaration is something that is about the UK and Sweden standing together, affirming our friendship and our partnership, and our willingness to come to each other’s defense and support,” Johnson said.
Niinistö, the Finnish president, was asked by a reporter about the possibility of a Russian attack if Helsinki joins the alliance, and he said he would tell Putin that he brought this on himself.
“If that would be the case then my response would be: you caused this. Look in the mirror,” he said, according to The Guardian.
TRENDPOST: As NATO’s first secretary-general put it, NATO was formed in order to keep the Russians out of Western Europe and the Americans in. Instead of disbanding NATO when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Washington dramatically expanded NATO.
In violation of the Reagan-Gorbachev agreements, the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush regimes added constituent parts of the former Soviet empire to NATO—Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania.
France, taken out of NATO by General de Gaulle, rejoined in April 2009, 18 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, followed by other nations including Croatia, Albania, Montenegro and North Macedonia.
When the Soviet Union broke up, and the U.S. said it would not expand NATO, there were 16 NATO nations. Today there are 30... with some of them on Russia’s borders.
Long forgotten was the U.S. and NATO’S pledge not to expand into Eastern Europe following the deal made during the 1990 negotiations between the West and the Soviet Union over German unification.
Therefore, in the view of Russia, it is taking self-defense actions to protect itself from NATO’s eastward march.