Recently, Finland joined NATO, marking a definitive shift in Europe’s post World War II alignment and isolating Russia further.
GS II: International Relations
Dimensions of the Article:
- Why has Finland joined NATO?
- What is NATO?
- Finland-Russia Ties and History
- Significance of Finland joining NATO:
Why has Finland joined NATO?
- Russia going to war against Ukraine has made its smaller neighbours crave the powerful military backing the NATO offers, under whose charter, every member has to defend any one member being attacked.
- Finland and its neighbour Sweden applied for NATO membership soon after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Any new applicant has to be approved by all existing members of the alliance, and while Finland is now the 31st NATO member, Sweden’s bid is being held up by Turkey and Hungary.
- NATO was set up after World War II with the express purpose of containing the Soviet Union.
What is NATO?
- The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, or NATO, is a political and military alliance of European countries and two countries in North America (United States and Canada).
- It was set up in 1949 by the US, Canada, and several western European nations to ensure their collective security against the Soviet Union.
- It was the US’s first peacetime military alliance outside the western hemisphere.
- Thirty countries are currently members of NATO, which is headquartered in Brussels, Belgium.
- The headquarters of the Allied Command Operations is near Mons, also in Belgium.
- The members of the alliance include: since 1949, the 12 founding countries of Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States; Greece and Türkiye joined in 1952; Germany in 1955; Spain in 1982; Czechia, Hungary and Poland in 1999; Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia joined in 2004; Albania and Croatia in 2009; Montenegro in 2017; North Macedonia in 2020; and finally, Finland.
What is important about NATO’s collective defence?
- Members of NATO are committed to mutual defence in response to an attack by any external party.
- Collective defence lies at the very heart of NATO, “a unique and enduring principle that binds its members together, committing them to protect each other and setting a spirit of solidarity within the Alliance”.
- This is laid out in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, the founding treaty of NATO.
Article 5 reads: “The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognized by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.”
Finland-Russia Ties and History
- During the Soviet era, Finland avoided actions that could strain relations with its powerful neighbour.
- After the Winter War of 1939-40, Finland signed a treaty with the Soviet Union, ceding territories to keep Leningrad safe during WWII.
- After WWII, Finland remained neutral and avoided joining Western military alliances to respect Soviet security interests.
- Despite building closer ties with the West, Finland refrained from joining NATO to avoid provoking Russia.
- Finland maintains preparedness for potential invasion by Russia through compulsory military service, regular disaster training, and defense spending equivalent to the 2% of GDP NATO target.
- The recent Russian invasion of Ukraine has led to Finland’s interest in NATO membership, along with its neighbor Sweden, due to the powerful military backing offered under NATO’s charter.
Significance of Finland joining NATO:
Importance for Finland:
- Provides powerful military backing from NATO in case of an attack from Russia.
- May have a negative impact on trade and tourism revenue from Russia.
- May strain relations with Moscow and lead to loss of Finland’s special voice in international affairs.
Importance for NATO:
- Brings in a military trained to repel an attack from Russia.
- Doubles the border with Russia, bringing the alliance in a better position to station weapons closer to Russia.
Importance for Russia:
- Brings NATO closer to its doors, which it strongly opposes.
- Raises the risk of the Ukraine conflict escalating further, according to Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu.
- May lead to Russia strengthening its military capacity in its west and northwest.
-Source: Indian Express