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Russia has self-alienated itself against the West through its actions and has become an increasingly paranoid nation under Vladimir Putin. Not only threatening Ukraine, but the country has also threatened Finland, Sweden, Georgia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, and other non-NATO nations who are thinking about drifting toward the West.
Making an example of how they want to “protect their borders,” Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014 and conducted a full-scale invasion in 2022. This war has been an internal disaster for Moscow and a geopolitical catastrophe as nations saw their renewed imperial ambitions and sought their security interests—one of those countries is Finland.
Finland, which has had a dark and uneasy history with Russia as a neighbor, initially attempted to keep a neutral but aware stance on their eastern neighbor since World War Two. However, now that the Russian invasion has changed its perspective, Europe’s largest reserve and artillery army poses the ultimate nightmare to the Kremlin, more so than Ukraine could in the alliance.
Russia’s Pretext for War in Ukraine
Despite its rejection from NATO in 2008, thanks to a veto from Angela Merkel, Vladimir Putin stated one of his reasons for invading Ukraine was that NATO would build bases to launch attacks against Russia. Ukraine, which generally wanted a path for the European Union to grow its stagnant economy, was not expecting its eastern neighbor to wage a brutal and scorched earth war against them.
Putin, Moscow parliament members, and media personalities would continue reiterating that NATO soldiers have been fighting in Ukraine to keep public interests positive during their military failures. Nevertheless, the full-fledged invasion was the ultimate catalyst that convinced Ukraine to pursue NATO membership. Kyiv realized Russia would never stop unless it were under the nuclear umbrella of the United States and its allies in Europe.
How the War Changed Finland’s Stance
After gaining its independence from Imperial Russia, after the latter occupied it for over 100 years, Finland has had a rocky relationship with its neighbor. Josef Stalin, the Soviet dictator, used a fake pretext to attempt to annex the nation just as he did to the Baltic states. This led to two wars between Finland and the Soviet Union during the Second World War.
With its small population, Finland inflicted heavy losses on the Red Army in the Winter War (over 350,000 casualties) and the Continuation War (over 900,000 casualties). However, Finland ultimately had to acknowledge Soviet supremacy as they did not have the endless stream of manpower Moscow had nor the diplomatic support from the international community.
In the aftermath of World War Two, Finland did not seek NATO membership not to provoke the Soviet Union. When the USSR collapsed, the popularity of NATO in Finland diminished as most of the world saw no further use of the organization. Russia was no longer a significant threat—until February 2022.
The ongoing invasion of Ukraine forced Finland and Sweden to reconsider their security apparatus, as both nations saw Russia’s renewed imperial ambitions against Europe come to light. In place of Finland’s ascension into the NATO alliance, Russian media threatened nuclear war against the state with some armed nuclear bombers flying over Sweden—choosing Helsinki’s membership that much easier.
How Finland in NATO Checkmates Russia
Finland currently holds Europe’s largest reserve army, with every male conducting obligated military service, which puts the nation in a total state of readiness. They also have much artillery to sustain them in a land war, more so than the top ten military powers such as France and the United Kingdom.
Finland has pledged a joint Air Force with the Nordic states of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, which can counter the Russian Air Force as all four states now have advanced warplanes. Growing cooperation in the Baltic Sea with Estonia also puts pressure on the Russian Baltic Fleet and their enclave of Kaliningrad.
Russia’s Fear of Ukraine is Now Reality with Finland
Geographically close to Russia’s second most important city, Saint Petersburg, Finland’s accession and membership is now a nightmare for any ambitions the Kremlin has in Northern Europe. NATO now has itsmost extensive border with Russia with Finland’s membership (1340 KM). Weapon systems that Helsinki can purchase from Washington are now in range of Saint Petersburg and can strike the city within 10 minutes in the event of war.
One of the reasons for Russia’s pretext for invading Ukraine was that it could be used as a “launching pad” for NATO to strike Russian territory and the potential for American bases. With Finland in the defense alliance, there are ongoing talks of hosting the US military in their headquarters in the country, as reported by Helsinki Sanomat News.
Before Finland’s NATO accession, Helsinki and Washington have grown a close relationship, more than Kyiv has. Distinguishable from Ukraine, for now, Finland was able to procure 64 F35s, a highly advanced jet that has a performance capability beyond Russia’s modern fleet of aircraft.
Russia, which embroiled itself in paranoia and feared that Ukraine would be incorporated into NATO, has become a reality with Finland’s membership. The most mind-boggling irony is that had Russia never invaded Ukraine, Finland, which didn’t hold the most positive attitude towards NATO, pre-2022 would never have re-assessed their national security. Russia’s tumultuous situation and foreign policy have been self-inflicted, and the country has no one to blame but itself.
** To learn more about Russia, NATO and Ukraine, click here.
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