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Finland Joins NATO, Sweden’s Accession Remains Uncertain

Finland has joined NATO, overturning a long-held policy of military nonalignment and heavily armed neutrality dating back to the 1940s. With a shared 1,300 km border with Russia, Finland’s geopolitical situation is highly precarious. Dependence on Baltic Sea sea lanes of communication for most of its critical supply adds to the vulnerability. Direct experience fighting Russia has brought civil preparedness, societal resilience and a will to fight to the forefront of what it means to be Finnish, indicating that joining NATO and gaining the security that comes with Article 5 brings no change to Finland’s focus on self-sufficiency, resilience and mobilisation of the entirety of Finnish society to protect the country in a crisis, otherwise known as comprehensive security. Finnish defence and security policy revolves primarily around a conscript-based force backed by a large reserve component, allowing for a credible defence despite a small population base. The Finnish Navy and Air Force boast noteworthy capabilities such as icebreakers, mine warfare vessels and, soon, the latest F-35 stealth fighters. The culture of armed self-sufficiency means Finland joins NATO as a net contributor to collective security, and one with a highly influential role to play in defending NATO’s longest land border with Russia. Finland’s accession brings several opportunities and benefits to NATO, with significant historical experience and expertise on assessing Russian capabilities and intentions being among the strongest of contributions. NATO’s need for active intelligence led to a valuable intelligence and understanding of the Russian threat. Additionally, Finland’s leadership in societal resilience and comprehensive security provides a substantial strategic foothold in northern Europe, with considerable influence on shaping NATO policy due to its highly developed market economy, democracy and first-rate military. Finally, with Sweden being Finland’s neighbour NATO approval to join the alliance will be important. Sweden waiting for Hungary and Turkey to unblock its access, which is unlikely to happen before the NATO Summit to be held in Vilnius, Lithuania, in July.

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