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Finland could join NATO: how can it affect relations with Russia?

Sunday’s announcement has already frayed relations with Russia who have vowed to “retaliate” to the move of Finland joining the organisation.

"Today, the President of the Republic and the Government's Foreign Policy Committee have jointly agreed that Finland will apply for NATO membership, after consulting parliament. This is a historic day. A new era is opening", President Sauli Niinisto said.

Finland announced on Sunday that it is their intention to join NATO, despite calls from Russia to stay out of the military alliance. On Monday, Sweden echoed this and said they would begin the process of joining.

The move has prompted a reaction from Russia. After a call with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö last week, in which the Finn informed the Russian government he would take his country into NATO, Vladimir Putin said relations would be “negatively affected.”

“Such a change in the country’s foreign policy could negatively affect Russian-Finnish relations, which had been built in the spirit of good neighbourliness and partnership for many years, and were mutually beneficial,” he added.

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A statement from the Russian government, released last Thursday, described Finland’s move as “a radical change in the country’s foreign policy”.

“Finland’s accession to Nato will cause serious damage to bilateral Russian-Finnish relations and the maintaining of stability and security in the Northern European region,” it said.

Russia will be forced to take retaliatory steps, both of a military-technical and other nature, in order to neutralise the threats to its national security that arise from this.”

Clearly, relations between the Scandinavian countries and Russia would take a hit. However, they would likely need to plumb new depths to achieve this as the Russian war on Ukraine has driven the two countries into the arms of NATO. It caused a huge change in public opinion in support of the alliance.

What actions could be taken against Finland and Sweden?

Putin said that he had “no problems” with the two nations but he would have one if military infrastructure was built by NATO in them. Both countries have been clear that this is not their intention.

“This would provoke a response,” the Russian president said.

At this stage, however, Russia is in no place to band around threats. Its invasion of Ukraine has stalled and there is not a prospect of an armed incursion into NATO. This is why Finland and Sweden are joining NATO after all, to protect against the threat of a Russian attack.


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