Finland officially became the 31st member of NATO on 4th April 2023 after seven decades of its independence, this comes after mercurial Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
For decades, Finland remained neutral when it came to wartime alliance. Finland is a former Russian Empire member, which dissolved on 6th Dec 1917. Finland heavily remained under the control of Russia during the cold war calling it ‘Finlandization’.
Russia captured the Region of Finland from Sweden in 1808–1809. During the world war, Finland was strongly in the German sphere of influence because the Soviet Union became the biggest threat to the security of the state. In August 1939 Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union agreed that Finland belonged to the Soviet Union’s sphere of influence. Finland fought the Soviet Union twice during WWII, Finland went on to lose both wars but the Soviet Union never occupied them, but they had to pay the Soviet Union heavy war reparations in the form of goods.
In the year 1948, Finland and the Soviet Union signed an agreement of friendship, cooperation and mutual assistance where the countries promised to defend each other against external threats. In practice, Finland was under the Soviet Union's influence throughout the cold war and its foreign policy was heavily guided by the fear of the Soviet Union.
Article 5 NATO
Finland shares a 1,340-km (832-mile) eastern frontier with Russia and after the war in Ukraine began Helsinki chose the protection of Nato’s Article Five, which says an attack on one member is an attack on all.
In effect, it means if Finland were invaded or attacked, all Nato members including the US would come to its aid. Russia’s invasion prompted a surge in Finnish public opinion towards joining Nato to 80% in favour which prior to the Ukraine Invasion was just 20%.
What does it mean for the NATO Alliance?
Finland’s NATO membership guarantees the northern European nation access to the resources of the entire alliance in the event of an attack. It includes the protection offered by NATO’s Article 5 principle, which states that an attack on one member of NATO is an attack on all members. It’s been a cornerstone of the 30-member alliance since it was founded on April 4 1949.
NATO membership also adds Finnish force in training with the NATO alliances. The country is no stranger to working with NATO, with its troops regularly participating in NATO exercises under a partner status. Finland's artillery is the most well-equipped in all of Europe. The Finnish Defense Force also operates some of the same weapons systems as other NATO members, including US-made F/A-18 fighters, German-designed Leopard main battle tanks and K9 Howitzers used by Norway and Estonia among others.
The wartime strength of the Finnish force is 280,000 troops having 900,000 reserves who have been trained.
Just south of Finland are the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania all NATO members which also directly border Russia or its close ally Belarus. Those nations have long worried that Russia could seize Finnish islands to use as bases from which to stage attacks on their own territories. With Finland becoming a NATO member, they will be better protected.