WASHINGTON, D.C. – NATO has a new member. The Nordic country of Finland becomes it’s 31st member. Russian president Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine pushed Finland to join.
As Finland’s national anthem is played, their flag gets hoisted up in between France and Estonia’s at NATO’s headquarters in Belgium.
“The era of military non-alignment in our history has come to an end,” said Finnish President Sauli Niinistö. “A new era begins.”
The Finnish president said each country maximizes its own security and joining NATO does exactly that. Stephen Flanagan with the RAND Corporation said Finland’s decision to pursue NATO membership was influenced heavily by the war in Ukraine.
“When the Finnish people saw the brutality of the war, given they have an 830-mile border with Russia, that they have fought wars with Russia before, with Putin’s threats of nuclear escalation, all of that led to a very strong shift in opinion in Finland,” said Flanagan.
Although Finland has a relatively smaller population compared to it’s European neighbors, Flanagan said Finland brings a very capable air force and navy to NATO’s forces.
“It’s small active duty force of about 24-thousand personnel but they can mobilize a country of five-plus million, they can mobilize 285-thousand troops within 30 days because they have conscription,” said Flanagan.
Even before membership, Finland has worked with NATO members on previous peacekeeping missions. Flanagan said Finland is very much aligned with US foreign policy in terms of ensuring democratic freedoms around the world. Flanagan adds that Finland’s addition to the alliance sends a message to Russia.
“While they [Finland] have that capacity to put up a strong resistance of their own, what they would like to have now is that guarantee that they can expect the United States and other members of NATO to come to their assistance of any Russian aggression under the principals of the North Atlantic Treaty,” said Flanagan. “Particularly article five which is often times cited as an attack against one is an attack against all.”