Finland has officially joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in a move that doubles the Western alliance’s border with Russia.
The historic realignment was triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year. It has sparked warnings from Moscow that it will seek to bolster defences along its border.
Finland shares a 832-mile border with Russia and its entry will see NATO’s border double. The move comes after Turkey became the final country to ratify its membership proposal last week.
Russia has already warned that it would bolster defences along its border with NATO if the alliance deploys any additional troops or equipment to its new 31st member, Finland.
NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg told reporters at the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels: “There will be no NATO troops in Finland without the consent of Finland.”
But he insisted NATO would not allow Russia’s demands to dictate its decisions and that Finland would benefit from the alliance’s “iron-clad security guarantee”.
He said: “We are constantly assessing our posture, our presence. We have more exercises, we have more presence, also in the Nordic area…
“By (Finland) becoming a fully-fledged member, we are removing the room for miscalculation in Moscow… and that makes Finland safer and stronger, and all of us safer.”
Helsinki applied to join in May, setting aside its longstanding military non-alignment policy. Neighbour Sweden also applied, but its accession process may take a few months longer.
The move is a strategic political blow to President Vladimir Putin, who has long complained about NATO expansion toward Russia, but has deployed most military resources to Ukraine.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Finland’s entry reflects NATO’s anti-Russian course.
“We will closely monitor… how NATO will use the territory for the deployment of weapons, equipment and infrastructure next to our border that would potentially threaten us,” he said.
Despite Russia having no territorial disputes with Finland, he added: “Measures will be taken dependent on that.”
Finland’s entry is being marked with a flag-raising ceremony, attended by Finland’s president, Sauli Niinistö. It falls on the 74th anniversary of its founding treaty being signed, April 4, 1949.
British Foreign Policy Group (BFPG) researcher Evie Aspinall said it was a “significant blow” for Russia.
She added: “Finland joining NATO marks a major shift in the European security paradigm, precipitated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“As strong supporters of NATO, this is a very welcome move for the UK and is an important step for the future of European security. The next step is for Sweden to be allowed to join the pact.”
UK defence secretary Ben Wallace said: “I am delighted that Finland’s application to join NATO has now been approved and I want to welcome the country to the organisation.
“Let Finland be a lesson to President Putin. Finland chose to join based on their own free will. The freedom to choose their alliances as a sovereign state is a matter for their citizens and their citizens alone.”
With Associated Press reporting