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Tensions rise as Russia warns of ‘retaliatory measures’ after Finland joins NATO

Ceremony for the accession of Finland to NATO in Brussels on Tuesday (Image courtesy: NATO)

Reacting strongly to Finland joining as the newest member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), Russia has said that the situation in the Northern European region, “previously one of the most stable in the world”, has changed radically.

The Finnish flag was for the first time raised at the NATO Headquarters in Brussels on Tuesday with the Nordic nation becoming the 31st member of the transatlantic military alliance of North American and European countries.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg remarked that this has been the fastest accession process in the alliance’s modern history as Finland and Sweden applied for membership only last May.

“I look forward also to welcoming Sweden into the Alliance as soon as possible. Finland is safer and NATO is stronger with Finland as an Ally. Your forces are substantial and highly capable. Your resilience is second to none,” Stoltenberg said with the Finland President Sauli Niinisto standing by his side at the ceremony marking the country’s accession to NATO.

A furious Moscow said that it will be “forced to take retaliatory measures, both of a military-technical and other nature”, in order to stop the threats to its national security that arise in connection with Finland’s entry into NATO.

“Concrete steps in defence construction on the northwestern borders of Russia will depend on the specific conditions for the integration of this country into the North Atlantic Alliance, including the deployment of NATO military infrastructure and strike weapons systems on its territory,” said the Russian Foreign Ministry.

It added that the line of direct contact between NATO and the borders of the Russian Federation has now doubled as Finland by joining the alliance has “finally renounced its self-identity and any independence” which distinguished it in international affairs for decades.

“The policy of military non-alignment pursued by Helsinki has long served the Finnish national interests and has been one of the important factors for ensuring confidence in the Baltic Sea region and on the European continent as a whole. Now this is already in the past. Finland has become one of the small, undecided member countries of the alliance, having lost its special voice in international affairs,” the Russian MFA statement stated.

The Kremlin insists that Finland’s accession to NATO “cannot but have a negative impact” on Russian-Finnish bilateral relations.

Finland NATO

As reported by IndiaNarrative.com earlier, analysts believe Russia’s concerns are legitimate as there is a possibility of forces under NATO command positioned right at its 1300 km border with Finland in the future.

One can go to Finland from Russia by plane, train, sea ferry, and even by car as there are eight automobile, three railway and one water international checkpoint.

Saint Petersburg, the city on the shore of the Gulf of Finland which also was the capital of the Russian empire for two centuries, is only 435 km away from the Finnish–Russian border. It remains the first city visited by Finnish tourists in Russia.

Russia-Finland relations became an example of a policy of peaceful coexistence, characterized by intensive political dialogue and a high level of trade which reached 25% of Finland’s foreign trade in the mid-1980s.

As things changed drastically after Russia’s ongoing ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine launched in February 2022, Helsinki gradually started giving feelers about its intention to join NATO.

Moscow alleged that the goal of NATO was to continue expanding towards the borders of Russia and create another flank for a military threat.

Much before Tuesday’s development, Russian President Vladimir Putin emphasised that the NATO expansion could cause serious damage to maintaining stability and security in the Northern European region.

“In addition to this endless expansionary policy, the North Atlantic Alliance is also going beyond its geographic destination – beyond the Euro-Atlantic area, is trying to get more and more actively involved in international issues and control and influence the international situation in terms of security, and not in the best way, in other regions of the world,” Putin said during a meeting of leaders of the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) member countries last May.

Not convinced why Finland should turn its territory into a frontier of military confrontation, Russia now says that only history will judge “this hasty step” taken by Helsinki.

Also Read: Putin bugles call for collective defence of Eurasia citing NATO’s expansion in region