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From Neutral to NATO: Why Finland Joining the Alliance Matters


While countries were thinking about the security dynamics of Europe, Finland’s Prime Minister had insisted that her country was unlikely to join NATO even as Russian troops amassed on the Ukrainian border in February.

  • Three months and one invasion later, Finland is hurtling to join the alliance — a monumental shift for a nation with a long history of wartime neutrality and staying out of military alliances.


GS II- International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About NATO
  2. Major pointers regarding NATO
  3. Why Finland wishes to join now?
  4. What would a membership mean and will it benefit NATO as well?

About NATO

  • The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) is an international organisation for collective security by the United States, Canada, and several Western European nations to provide collective security against the Soviet Union in 1949, in support of the North Atlantic Treaty signed in Washington.
  • NATO’s Headquarters are located in Evere, Brussels, Belgium.
  • Since its founding, the admission of new member states has increased the alliance from the original 12 countries to 30 member states with North Macedonia being the most recent member state to be added to NATO in March 2020.
  • An additional 20 countries participate in NATO’s Partnership for Peace program, with 15 other countries involved in institutionalized dialogue programs.

Major pointers regarding NATO

  • A key provision of the treaty, the so-called Article 5, states that if one member of the alliance is attacked in Europe or North America, it is to be considered an attack on all members. That effectively put Western Europe under the “nuclear umbrella” of the US.
  • From a political perspective: NATO promotes democratic values and enables members to consult and cooperate on defence and security-related issues to solve problems, build trust and, in the long run, prevent conflict.
  • The North Atlantic Council (NAC) is the body which has effective governance authority and powers of decision in NATO, consisting of member states’ permanent representatives or representatives at higher level (ministers of foreign affairs or defence, or heads of state or government).
  • All 30 allies have an equal say, the Alliance’s decisions must be unanimous and consensual, and its members must respect the basic values that underpin the Alliance, namely democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law.
  • NATO has an integrated military command structure but very few forces or assets are exclusively its own. Most forces remain under full national command and control until member countries agree to undertake NATO-related tasks.
Why has Article 5 not been invoked this time?
  • Ukraine is a partner of the Western defence alliance but not a NATO member.
  • As a result, Article 5, or the Collective Defense Pledge, does not apply.
What may prompt NATO to invoke Article 5?
  • NATO will invoke Article 5 only if Russia launches a full-blown attack on one of its allies.
  • Some top US officials have warned of the impact of some of Russia’s cyberattacks being felt in NATO countries.

Why Finland wishes to join now?

  • The country, so far, has stayed away from joining such alliances as it always wanted to maintain cordial relations with its neighbour Russia.
  • For a long time, the idea of not joining NATO or getting too close to the West was a matter of survival for the Finns.
  • However, the change in perception and an overwhelming support to join NATO came about following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
  • NATO membership would strengthen the country’s security and defence system.

What about Sweden?

  • Sweden is likely to apply for a membership after Finland’s final call.
  • If Finland joins, Sweden will be the only Nordic non-member of NATO.
  • Now, unlike Finland, whose policy stance was a matter of survival, Sweden has been opposed to joining the organisation for ideological reasons.
  • The ruling Social Democratic Party is currently conducting a security policy review in its parliament to analyse the pros and cons of joining NATO and the results.
  • In terms of public perception, the Swedes seem to be on the same page with the Finns.
  • A poll conducted by Swedish daily Aftonbladet this week showed support for a NATO membership rise to 61 per cent, as compared to a 42 per cent in January.

What would a membership mean and will it benefit NATO as well?

  • Being a member of NATO will give the nations a security guarantee under the alliance’s “Article 5” on collective defence.
    • The article essentially guarantees a military response and protection by NATO countries if any member of the organisation comes under attack.
  • NATO, too, has shown eagerness about Finland and Sweden’s memberships.
  • Usually, becoming an official NATO member can take up to a year as it requires the approval of all existing member states.
  • However, NATO Secretary General has ensured that the countries could join quickly and that the organisation would make full security arrangements during the interim period.
  • Finland’s geographical location plays in its favour as once it becomes a member, the length of borders Russia shares with NATO would double and it would also strengthen the alliance’s position in the Baltic Sea.
  • More sovereign powers siding with the west and increasing its strength is a direct blow to Russia.

Source: Indian Express

June 2024