As Finland becomes the 31st member of the NATO security alliance, the length of the organization's borders with Russia doubles. The Finnish foreign minister presented the accession document to the US secretary of state, who then announced Finland's membership.
In a ceremony at NATO's new headquarters, Finland's flag joined the flags of the other 30 member nations. This development is a blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has consistently criticized NATO's expansion prior to his full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken noted that Putin's aggression against Ukraine had inadvertently spurred the very outcome he had hoped to avoid. Dmitry Peskov, Kremlin spokesman, warned that Russia would closely monitor developments in Finland and described NATO's enlargement as a breach of Russia's security and national interests.
As Finland's national anthem played, followed by the NATO hymn, a small group of demonstrators waving Ukrainian flags outside the perimeter fence chanted "Ukraine in NATO." This served as a reminder of the reason behind Finland's request to join the alliance alongside Sweden in May 2022, after remaining unaligned. Finland shares a 1,340-km (832-mile) border with Russia and sought the protection of NATO's Article Five, which states that an attack on one member is an attack on all, following the outbreak of war in Ukraine.
The Russian invasion led to a shift in Finnish public opinion, with 80% in favor of joining NATO. Finnish President Sauli Niinisto hailed the occasion as a new era for his country, asserting that Finland would be a dependable ally and its membership would not threaten anyone. He emphasized the importance of security and stability for a happy life.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg declared that Finland's membership would bolster both the country's safety and the strength of the alliance. He pointed out that Putin's invasion of Ukraine had achieved the opposite of his intended goal.
Finland's accession adds a well-equipped and trained active armed force of around 30,000 personnel, with the ability to call upon 250,000 reserves. This presents a challenge for NATO in securing its extensive border with Russia, but Finland is already being integrated into the alliance's latest defense strategies to maintain security.