Finally, Finland becomes a NATO member. On 4 April, the Nordic country entered NATO as its 31st member. View this as a watershed moment, not only for Finland, also for Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine. Precisely because Finland’s NATO entry expands the military alliance to Russia’s disadvantage. This NATO expansion will soon prove to be a strategic setback for Vladimir Putin, president of Russia. Stormy days are ahead for him and his territorial ambitions.

Video Courtesy: YouTube/BBC News

Entry is a Symbolic Moment

Expect a new power shift soon in Europe’s military equations the war in Ukraine has created. When Finland’s flag finally went up in NATO’s headquarters in Brussels, it made many eyebrows in Mr Putin’s military establishment arch up. Deeply concerned over the emerging new equation, Mr Putin and his war generals are sure to spend many sleepless nights over the West succeeding in strengthening its alliances.

Though belated, Finland’s historic NATO entry is a symbolic moment for the peace-loving world as a whole. The first such symbolism was seen in Finland president Sauli Niinisto’s presence in the accession ceremony that coincided with NATO’s 74th anniversary. Viewed any which way, Finland in NATO means a serious setback for Mr Putin and a strategic defeat for Russia.

Land Border With Russia Doubles

With reason. Blocking Finland’s entry into NATO has been Mr Putin’s Holy Grail, ever since he launched his unprovoked war in Ukraine. Finland’s NATO entry could not have come at a worse moment for him. Even as he continues to remain determined not to withdraw from Ukraine, Turkey lifted its veto by casting its vote on 30 March. At once, Finland’s NATO entry was unlocked and ratified. This rushed a herd of new military troubles to Mr Putin’s doorstep.

That is not all. With Finland as a NATO member now, the Organisation’s land border with Russia has doubled. There is more to Russia’s troubles. Many Russian neighbours will now gain access to NATO’s formidable forces. At long last, Finland’s NATO entry has rammed this harsh reality home for Mr Putin. Finland’s border with Russia stretches over 1,340 kilometres (832 miles). As the Nordic nation integrates into NATO, Finland will have a militarised border, with foreign forces operating on its land.

The Best-Ever Protection for Finland

Expect Finland’s new prime minister Petteri Orpo to swim with the global tide now. He is sure to allow nuclear weapons of NATO allies to be stationed on Finnish soil. It was sheer good sense that Finland decided to abandon its long-held neutrality and decided to apply for NATO membership. This decision happened after Mr Putin launched his untenable war in Ukraine.  Finland got it right by viewing NATO as the best-ever protection it could get in a world of insane aggressionists.

Inspired by Finland, Sweden too wants to join the NATO soon. However, Turkey and Hungary continue to stall Sweden’s  membership. Turkey is irked by Sweden’s support to its separatist Kurds. Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan holds the firm belief that Sweden backed the 2016 Kurdish coup attempt to overthrow him. Yet, Sweden’s foreign minister, along with  Ukraine’s, did attend all summit meetings of NATO in Brussels.

Making Finland and Sweden Safer

These summit meetings focus on the war in Ukraine and Ukraine’s transition to NATO-friendly military hardware. In a major step, the alliance is now constituting a NATO-Ukraine Commission. The Commission is expected to override the Hungarian veto, which has been responsible, since 2017, for blocking Ukraine’s efforts to defend its people, properties and borders.

The Commission will have two priorities now. One, explore avenues for Ukraine to launch an effective counter-attack against Russia’s late-spring offensive. Two, suggest ways to deepen Ukraine’s partnership with NATO. These two priorities indicate NATO’s fervent desire to help Ukraine modernise its armed forces and bring them up to NATO’s military standards. According to NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, this should make both Finland and Sweden safer.

Military Calculations Go Awry

Safer because NATO entry is sure to improve Finland’s border-surveillance capabilities and add more teeth to its enemy intelligence machinery. This supposition is supported by facts. Finland’s active military personnel strength will move up, from 23,000 to 280,000 troops. Plus, Finland’s conscription system will turn more vibrant and more capable of mobilising one million troops.

That is not all. A NATO-ised Finland will militarise its 832-mile border with Russia, making it safer and more secure. This border-fenced militarisation will make Mr Putin’s military calculations go awry. Even without NATO, Finland’s artillery is rated among the largest and the better equipped, 51st most powerful on the planet. Finland boasts of 1,500 artillery weapons, including 700 Howitzers, 700 heavy-mortar and 100 rocket launcher systems.

The Death of Finlandization

To top it all, Finland is a recognised designer of ice-breaker ships. Finland is better equipped anyway to face counter-offensives on land and sea. Mr Putin will have to think many times over, before extending his invading madness to Finland. This military and maritime strength is behind Finland abandoning its non-alignment stance. No longer will Finlandization mean neutrality and non-alignment for the Finnish. The ghosts have died.

Wiser by experience, the Finnish decided to give up neutrality, so irrelevant in a world of intimidatory invasions. As Finland views threats from Russia as real, it can ill afford to forget its turbulent history. Russia invaded Finland in 1939-40, in what was known as the Winter War. Finland can never get over the ignominy inflicted on them then. The insult still rankles the Finnish.

Why Finland Never Joined NATO

The invasion was aborted, before it could blow up into a full-fledged war. Yet, the fact that Finland lost the war eventually, had to cede territory and forced to accept neutrality remains a sore point to date. The imposed neutrality and non-alignment continued right through the days leading up to the crumbling of the Soviet Union and right up to Finland’s 1995 entry into the European Union. Despite joining NATO’s Partnership for Peace program in 1994, Finland had to remain helplessly neutral and non-aligned thereon.

This explains why Finland never joined NATO, despite the Nordic nation’s closeness to the military alliance. Wihtout becoming a member, Finland has been warming up to NATO since 1994. Good luck for Europe and Finland, Mr Putin changed Finland’s outlook and approach. Along with Sweden, Finland turned keen on joining NATO, with an eye on redrawing the strategic balance in Europe.

Russia Rattling its Sabre

The war in Ukraine apart, popular support too was rising within Finland in favour of joining NATO. This support moved up from 20 per cent to 80 per cent, within months of the onset of the war in Ukraine. Inevitably, Finland  was driven into the arms of NATO. As Mr Putin’s Ukraine arithmetic was beginning to go awry, his strategy was turning  counterproductive. Mr Putin was aiming to emaciate the NATO, but he was facilitating the expansion of the military alliance.

There is a spin-off here. Finland’s NATO entry is raising new hopes on the Ukraine-NATO front. NATO has been adamant on admitting Ukraine as a member. Western allies too are sticking to their 2008 decision to lead Ukraine into NATO. Alarmed, Russia has already begun to rattle its sabre. Prefaced with numerous warnings, Mr Putin has been dropping hints on his urge to beef up his defences along Russia’s border with Finland.

May Not Do a Rethink on Sweden

For a long time, Mr Putin has been suspecting of Finland’s imminent entry into NATO. He was expecting the entry to happen  anytime. He is aware of the implications the entry holds. Without any reservation, he must be agreeing with Mr Stoltenberg, who said: “Finland’s NATO membership augurs well for Finland’s security, for Nordic security and for NATO as a whole.” Yet, Mr Putin has been caught napping.

Mr Putin is awake now and wondering at leisure how and where he went wrong. Many analysts say Turkey may do a rethink on Sweden’s NATO entry. This is a false alarm. Turkey believes Sweden is sheltering as many as 100 terrorists, mainly Kurds, all inimical to Turkey’s interests. Turkey wants Sweden to extradite these  terrorists, but Sweden is denying of any wrongdoing. Mr Erdogan has also been irked by the burning of a copy of the  Koran, the Islamic holy book, by a far-right Danish politico near the Turkish embassy in the Swedish capital of Stockholm in January this year.

In Conclusion

As Turkey hurls charges of pussyfooting, Sweden is yet to act  against the perpetrators of the sacrilege. Not surprising that Sweden’s proposed NATO entry hangs in suspense and Turkey continues to dither. Undaunted, Finland is firm in its commitment to get Sweden into NATO. Alerted by the pernicious possibility of Sweden’s admission into NATO, Russia has begun launching a host of ‘adequate countermeasures’.

Mr Putin does not want to leave anything to chance. Russia is  frantically forming combat units and launching divisions in its  western military districts. However, in Turkey, Mr Erdogan may soon realise bashing Sweden will not get him a win in the polls scheduled for 14 May and get his nation the F-16 fighter jets it needs. Turkey may then lift its veto on Sweden’s NATO entry. Sure, Finland’s NATO entry has the ability to set off a benevolent storm, even beyond its borders.