Finland, the New NATO Member Ally of the United States

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The Russian-Ukrainian War has resulted in increased security measures in many countries.  In particular, the threat perceptions of the countries in the geography close to Russia have increased significantly. While the defense expenditures of many countries are increasing; The attitude of actors concerned about Russia’s activities towards collective mechanisms has also changed. The fact that Sweden and Finland have applied for membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is also of great importance in terms of global balances. The relations of the two Nordic countries, which applied in May 2022, with NATO and Western countries have also gained a new dimension.

Although Sweden’s membership process is still ongoing, Finland officially joined NATO on 4 April 2023.  Finland has maintained a  security partnership with the United States since 1994, when Finland first joined NATO’s Partnership for Peace programme. It is thought that this alliance relationship will develop with NATO membership.

In this context, it is stated that US President Joe Biden will visit Finland in July 2023. The White House has been negotiating a possible visit for several months. Multiple visits to the Nordic countries are expected to take place, and the visit to Finland is also on the agenda within this framework.[1]

Helsinki considers that NATO membership will open the doors for new partnerships and cooperation mechanisms. At the same time, there is an expectation that collective defence activities will create opportunities for Finland. Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said:  “As an ally, Finland will contribute to NATO’s collective deterrence and defence”  and  pledged that Finland would be a “reliable ally that strengthens regional stability”[2] US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also used the following statements in his statement:[3]

We are confident that Finland’s accession will strengthen our collective defence and enhance our ability to respond to security challenges in the Euro-Atlantic area.

It is known that the relations between Finland and the USA were at an advanced level even before NATO membership. In 2005, the two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding on air force activities and exercises in Finland.  In 2018,  the United States, Finland and Sweden signed an additional statement of interest (SOI) to expand the trilateral dialogue on defence policy, enhance interoperability, increase situational awareness in the Baltic Sea region, and strengthen military capabilities and defence posture.[4]

Finland was  designated as a NATO Advanced Opportunities Partner (EOP) at  the 2014 Wales Summit, the alliance’s highest level of partnership status. At the same time, the United States and Finland  are members of the Advanced Partnership Framework in Northern Europe (E-PINE). However,  there are 13.6 billion dollars of active  intergovernmental sales cases to Finland under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) system. It is known that between 2019 and 2021, the United States also allowed over 113.8 million dollars in permanent defense material exports to Finland through direct commercial sales.[5]

In September 2022, the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that it had begun negotiations with the  United States for Defence Cooperation (DCA). It was announced that the two countries, which have become closer to the NATO process, are  preparing to sign a security agreement in January 2023.[6]

In addition to security partnerships, economic relations  also tend to improve. In 2022, Finland’s exports to the U.S. increased  by 38.2% compared to the previous year; exports of goods and services increased by 68% and 9.7%, respectively.  The U.S.  has become Finland’s largest trading partner, replacing its traditional trading partner Sweden. According to a report by Amcham Finland, Finland’s recent accession to NATO is expected to boost trade relations.[7]

It is known that Russia has stated that the issue of Finland’s membership is not the main threat and priority. Moscow’s actions, however, are incompatible with this narrative. As a matter of fact, the Kremlin has announced  that it has increased the defenses of the country’s northwestern borders. It is also known that air defense units are conducting exercises to protect the state border in the northwest. Therefore, although Russia has made various statements about Finland’s membership, it is trying to improve border security.[8]

Within the framework of the NATO partnership, efforts are also being made to ensure that Helsinki takes an active part in different mechanisms. In  a statement issued by the Finnish Ministry of Defense, it  was stated that the Western military alliance would participate in nuclear planning and support operations despite the decision not  to allow nuclear weapons on the country’s territory.[9] On 13 March 2023, Finnish, German and Portuguese ships symbolically docked in Helsinki;  completed its first NATO exercise as an alliance member.[10]

With its NATO membership, Helsinki has entered a new process that will have an impact on the country’s history. At the same time, a new era has been entered in terms of regional equations and the global security system. Finland-US relations are also affected by Helsinki’s membership. Bilateral relations will further develop and reciprocal visits such as Biden’s expected visit are among the possible scenarios. It can be said that the deepening of relations will also shape Finland’s foreign policy steps.

[1] “White House Weighing Biden Trip to NATO’s Newest Member”, NBC News,, (Date of Accession: 29.04.2023).

[2] “Finland’s Accession to NATO Strengthens Alliance Security”, US Department of Defense,, (Date of Accession: 29.04.2023).

[3] “As Finland Gets NATO Membership, Here’s What it Means and Why it Matters”, CBS News,, (Date of Accession: 29.04.2023).

[4] “Finland, Sweden and US Deepen Defence Cooperation in Washington”, YLE,, (Date of Accession: 29.04.2023).

[5] “U.S. Security Cooperation With Finland”, US Department of State,, (Date of Accession: 29.04.2023).

[6] “Finland is Preparing to Sign a Defense Agreement with the USA”, Front News,, (Date of Accession: 29.04.2023).

[7] “Finland’s Trade With US Boosted by NATO Membership”, Ground,, (Date of Accession: 29.04.2023).

[8] “Russia Says Ramping Up Border Defense as Finland Enters NATO”, The Moscow Times,, (Date of Accession: 29.04.2023).

[9] “New Member Finland to Take Part in NATO’s Nuclear Planning”, Reuters,, (Date of Accession: 29.04.2023).

[10] “Finland Completes First NATO Exercise As Alliance Member”, Barrons,, (Date of Accession: 29.04.2023).

Şeyma KIZILAY, 2016 yılında Erciyes Üniversitesi İktisadi ve İdari Bilimler Fakültesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden mezun olmuştur. Yüksek lisans derecesini, 2019 yılında Kırşehir Ahi Evran Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda sunduğu ‘’Uluslararası İlişkilerde Ulus İnşası Bağlamında Irak Örneği” başlıklı teziyle almıştır. Doktora eğitimine Uludağ Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda devam eden Kızılay, tez aşamasındadır. Başlıca çalışma alanları; güvenlik, terörizm, Afganistan ve Pakistan’dır. Kızılay, iyi derecede İngilizce ve orta seviyede Arapça bilmektedir.