News ID: 113660
Publish Date : 04 April 2023 - 22:40

Finland Joins NATO as Eastward Expansion Rolls on

BRUSSELS (Dispatches) -- Finland became the 31st member of NATO on Tuesday, in a historic strategic shift which doubles the U.S.-led alliance’s border with Russia.
Completing the ratification in well under a year still makes this the fastest membership process in the alliance’s recent history.
All that remained were Tuesday’s highly choreographed formalities at NATO headquarters.
Finland’s foreign minister handed over the formal accession papers to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the keeper of NATO’s founding treaty.
Then the country’s blue-and-white flag was raised next to those of its new allies, between those of Estonia and France, in front of the gleaming headquarters in Brussels.
Joining NATO places Finland under the alliance’s Article Five, the collective defense pledge that an attack on one member “shall be considered an attack against them all”.
Invaded by its giant neighbor the Soviet Union in 1939, Finland -- which has a 1,300-kilometre (800 mile) border with Russia -- stayed out of NATO throughout the Cold War.
Now its membership brings a potent military into the alliance with a wartime strength of 280,000 and one of Europe’s largest artillery arsenals.
NATO’s reach into eastern and southern European countries infuriated the Kremlin and strained its relations with Washington.
Putin cited the threat of NATO expanding into Ukraine as one of his main reasons for launching the war 13 months ago.
Russia has pledged to bolster its forces and stepped up diplomatic rhetoric in recent weeks, describing Finland and Sweden as a “legitimate target” if they join NATO.
President Vladimir Putin has also announced plans to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Russia’s neighbor Belarus.
Russia’s parliament speaker said on Tuesday that Western leaders have blood on their hands for supporting Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky and that support has led to the creation of a “terrorist state” in Europe’s center.
Vyacheslav Volodin, an ally of President Vladimir Putin, said that the killing of prominent war blogger Vladlen Tatarsky in St Petersburg over the weekend was a “terrorist act” committed by Kyiv.
“The support of Washington and Brussels for the Kyiv authorities has led to the creation of a terrorist state in the centre of Europe,” Volodin said on the Telegram messaging app.
“The blood of the dead and wounded is on the hands of (U.S. President Joe) Biden, (President Emmanuel) Macron, (German Chancellor Olaf) Scholz and other heads of state who support the Zelensky regime.”