Finland has a close history with its largest next-door neighbor. Perhaps too close. “Finland was a province and then a grand duchy under Sweden from the 12th to the 19th centuries, and an autonomous grand duchy of Russia after 1809. Finland gained complete independence  in 1917″ from Russia after the World War I. [1] Recent events could have Finland joining NATO due to fear of the Russian bear.

Map of Finland (CIA)

In November 1939, the Red Army of the Soviet Union invaded Finland with half a million men.The Soviets expected the small nation to quickly capitulate, however, the Finns resisted. Much of the fighting took place in the forests of Finland, with the Finns moving about on skis and bicycles. However, by March 1940, the Finnish resistance was degraded due to the overwhelming material and personnel advantage of the Soviets. The Finns would be forced to cede the Karelian Isthmus to the Soviets. [2]

Many defense analysts believe that Finland joining NATO would ensure that country’s security from aggressive Russian actions. In fact, in late June 2016, the Finnish government said that it was exploring the benefits of NATO membership. However, there could be repercussions. This would essentially put NATO (the Finn military) right on the Russian border. Russia has said that it could be forced to reinforce its northern border with Finland should the Finns join NATO.  [3] Finland is also increasing its defense spending; currently it ranks only 62nd in the world, spending just 1.35 percent of its gross national product. [4]

Finland has been cooperating with NATO on a variety of levels. It participates in the NATO Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan, supplying small units to the northern region of Afghanistan and individuals to the Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul. Finland also belongs to the NATO Partnership for Peace program (since 1994).