NATO Officially Has A New Member, But Not Everyone Is Happy

On April 4, Finland became the 31st member of NATO during a ceremony held in Brussels.

By Kari Apted | Published


On April 4, Finland became the 31st member of NATO during a ceremony held in Brussels. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is an intergovernmental military alliance between two North American countries and 29 European member states. Finland and Sweden rushed to apply for NATO membership last May after Russia invaded Ukraine, but so far, only Finland has been added to the alliance.

Finland’s flag, featuring a blue cross on a white background, was raised over NATO’s headquarters during the ceremony. “For almost 75 years, this great alliance has shielded our nations and continues to do so today,” said NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. “But war has returned to Europe and Finland has decided to join NATO and be part of the world’s most successful alliance.”

Finland shares an 832-mile border with Russia and adding NATO protection to that border is one reason the country sought to join the alliance. NATO ceremony guests applauded and shouted “bravo” when Finland’s alliance was announced. Among the guests in attendance was US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken.

President Joe Biden issued a statement praising Finland’s addition to NATO and mentioned it was the fastest ratification process in the organization’s modern history. “When Putin launched his brutal war of aggression against the people of Ukraine, he thought he could divide Europe and NATO,” Biden said. “He was wrong. Today, we are more united than ever.”

Finland’s NATO union is said to strengthen both the country and the alliance. Because the Finnish people have a long history of self-sufficiency, many Finns were publicly opposed to their country becoming part of NATO. However, recent polling shows that mindsets have shifted and most Finns now embrace the union.

Finland’s decision displeased the Russian government. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the move was forcing Moscow to take further steps to ensure its own security. NATO’s expansion prompted Russia to promise a strengthening of its military capacity in its western and northwestern regions.

“Finland has a highly capable military and has been an active participant in NATO-led operations,” Blinken said. “It also shares our values and strong democratic institutions.” Blinken added that he’s confident that Finland’s NATO membership will only strengthen NATO’s ability to respond to challenges in the Euro-Atlantic area.

Indeed, Finland has historically been capable of holding its own during global conflicts. But analysts warn that European states tend to lose some of their self-reliance after joining NATO. Instead, they become more dependent on US military resources.

NATO began in 1949 when the US, Canada, and ten Western European countries came together to provide collective protection against the Soviet Union. After the USSR dissolved in December 1991, more countries joined NATO. Now the alliance is more than double its original size.

NATO’s mission statement says its purpose is “to guarantee the freedom and security of its members through political and military means.” Article 5 is the heart of the alliance’s treaty and says that an attack on any member nation is considered an attack on all. It further states that member nations will do what it takes “to restore and maintain international peace and security.”

The Russian government has never approved of NATO’s expansion through Europe. Rather, they see it as such a threat that it was used as a pretext for Russia’s attack on Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin has sought to prevent additional countries from joining the alliance.

Nordic nations showed little interest in joining NATO before the war in Ukraine. After witnessing the West’s refusal to send troops into Ukraine—a non-NATO member—these nations recognized the risks of non-alliance. But even before it became a member state, Finland acted as a close partner to the alliance for many years.

Hungary and Turkey have resisted allowing Sweden to join the alliance, accusing the country of harboring Kurdish separatists that Hungarians and Turks consider to be terrorists. President Biden is eager for Sweden to become the next NATO alliance and is urging the two outliers to ratify Sweden immediately. “Both countries [Finland and Sweden] are strong democracies with highly capable militaries, who share our values and vision for the world,” Biden said.