NATO brings in the Finns

The happiest people on earth have joined the West’s most important military alliance.

What happened: Finland has formally joined NATO as its 31st member, after former Prime Minister Alexander Stubb confirmed joining the alliance was a “done deal” for his country as the war in Ukraine started. From beginning to end, the entire process took less than a year.

  • Finns’ support for joining NATO went from 60% at the outset of Russia’s invasion to ~80% today. It’s the opposite of what Russia wants: a NATO expansion to the East.

Catch up: Finland gained independence from the Russian Empire in 1917 and defended itself against Soviet invasions in two subsequent wars. The Cold War that followed was awkward, with Finnish leaders under pressure to accept some Russian interference in domestic politics to avoid further aggression. 

  • The balancing act of carefully avoiding Russian provocation while staying friendly with the West came to be known as “Finlandization.”

Why it matters: The move has brought an experienced Arctic army into NATO, along with what one Washington think tank calls “the largest and best-equipped” artillery in Western Europe. Russia doesn’t love that: A government spokesperson called Finland’s NATO membership an “aggravation” and promised that Russia “will take countermeasures.”

  • Getting NATO forces away from its border had been one of Moscow’s demands, but Finland’s accession has effectively doubled the length of NATO’s border with Russia. 

Yes, but: Finland’s neighbour Sweden also wants to join NATO, but has been held up by political differences with Turkey, a veto-wielding alliance member. 

Bottom line: After decades of trying to stay neutral, the Finns might be finished with Finlandization.—AP