Finland has officially become the 31st member of NATO, the world’s largest military alliance, after a unanimous vote by the Turkish parliament.
Finland’s accession to NATO marks a historic shift in its security policy, which has been based on neutrality and non-alignment since the end of World War II. Finland shares a 1,340-kilometer border with Russia, which has opposed its NATO membership and increased its military presence and activities in the region.
Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö said that joining NATO was a “necessary and natural” decision for his country, which faced growing security challenges and threats from Russia. He said that Finland would contribute to NATO’s collective defence and crisis management operations, as well as to its political dialogue and cooperation.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed Finland as a “valued ally” and praised its commitment to democracy, human rights and the rule of law. He said that Finland would bring “unique expertise and capabilities” to the alliance, especially in areas such as cyber defence, hybrid warfare and Arctic security.
Finland’s NATO membership was also supported by its Nordic neighbours Sweden, Norway and Denmark, which are already members of the alliance. Sweden also applied to join NATO last year, but its accession process has been delayed by domestic political opposition and legal hurdles.
Finland’s NATO membership is expected to have a significant impact on the security dynamics and balance of power in Northern Europe and the Baltic Sea region. It could also affect Finland’s relations with Russia, which considers NATO expansion as a threat to its national interests and security.
Finland has said that it will continue to maintain a constructive dialogue and cooperation with Russia on issues of mutual interest and concern, such as trade, energy and environmental protection. However, it has also expressed its solidarity with Ukraine, which has been fighting against Russian-backed separatists in its eastern regions since 2014.
Finland’s NATO membership is a milestone for the alliance, which has grown from 12 founding members in 1949 to 31 today. It also reflects NATO’s adaptation and resilience in the face of evolving security challenges and threats in the 21st century.