Russia’s attack on Ukraine forced many world countries to reconsider their security policies. That is why the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which has become the focal point of the debate, has become the main topic on the agenda of non-member states. In the aftermath of the war in Ukraine, many countries declared their intention to join NATO. However, one of the most noteworthy developments was the statements regarding NATO membership for Sweden and Finland, which have a permanent neutrality status. Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said they are negotiating to deepen relations with NATO, but said they are not considering NATO membership for the time being. Finland, which is a member of the European Union (EU), continues to discuss joining NATO. Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said they do not prefer that a rapid accession process be in place for his country’s entry into the alliance, which will be decided in the spring.
NATO has given the go-ahead for the membership explanations of Finland and Sweden. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that if the two countries wish to join the alliance, they could speed up the integration process. Russia has warned the two countries that achieving NATO membership would have political and military consequences. Particularly the debate over Finland’s accession was covered extensively by the Russian media.
Experts assess Finland’s progress towards NATO membership with the Ankara Center for Crisis and Political Research (ANKASAM). The process is not easy, they say.
ANKASAM Advisor Dr. Emre Ozan: Finland strengthens its defense against the Russian threat, but NATO membership is not an easy decision.
Dr. Emre Ozan, adviser to ANKASAM, pointed out that Finland’s NATO accession process should be considered in the context of the war in Ukraine, and added that the Helsinki government’s request to join the alliance was related to the security threat it receives from Russia. “This membership, even if it happens one day, will not be a very fast accession process. In Finland, there is no broad consensus on this issue.
Recent discussions have also shown this. There was a debate in parliament on the matter. So, a public consensus has not been reached yet, but support for NATO membership has increased following the war in Ukraine. Currently, we cannot say for certain whether membership will be available. However, with the increased threat that Finland receives from Russia, the Helsinki administration will increasingly look to arms.” statements.
Stressing that if Finland joins NATO, there will be consequences, Ozan said, “Finland is an objective state. commit to becoming no member of any military alliance after the Second World War. But she did not do it by her own choice. This decision was taken after the agreement with the Soviet Union. Because of a necessity, such neutrality was introduced; yet Finland, not militarily, is part of the Western alliance, politically and economically. Membership in NATO, therefore, would represent significant political or even military consequences for Finland. That decision is therefore not an easy one.” he clarified. He added that the Russo-Ukrainian War had largely changed the order established in the world, and that Europe was seeking a new order in its security.
Kastamonu University Faculty Member Assoc. Prof. Evren Küçük: Finland is unlikely to join NATO.
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Evren Küçük said that Helsinki had calculated the advantages and disadvantages of NATO membership and that they were waiting for the right time to apply stating that Russia’s military operations created serious unrest in Finland.
“Finland, which has a long border with Russia, managed to maintain its neutrality policy by acting distanced from the Soviet Union to preserve its independence during the Cold War. The latest developments have changed Finland’s attitude. If Russia increases its provocations, Finland and Sweden, whose neutrality is a tradition, will have to take refuge in NATO,” he said.
Kucuk said that there was a 1,340-km border between Russia and Finland with the Russians accounting for 1.6% of the country’s population. He added that Finland’s energy dependence on Russia would necessitate a substantial review of bilateral relations.
Kucuk emphasized that Finland’s membership in NATO is a low possibility. “As a country which is reluctant to lose its privileged partnership with NATO, Finland is after a joint resolution by working with Sweden,” he said.
Kucuk also said that Russia would keep its possible membership in the alliance unanswered and would try to block it.
Cappadocia University Faculty Member Assoc. Prof. Şafak Oğuz: Finland’s NATO membership is not an easy process.
Assoc. Prof. Şafak Oğuz pointed out that Finland had acted jointly with Sweden to meet the Russian threat and softened its stance on NATO membership. Oguz said ratifying membership would not be an easy process and NATO allies would be more cautious.
Oguz reacted against Russia’s possible membership and said, “Considering the lines extending to Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltic States and Finland, it is evident that Russia aspires to create a buffer zone between NATO and thus it does not wish to be a border neighbor to NATO. Indeed, Russian authorities clearly express this. Russia, which has put out the aspirations of these two states to join NATO with its moves towards Ukraine and Georgia, is trying in a sense to block the accession process of Finland and to have a short border with NATO just over Norway and Estonia/Lithuania.” comment.
Eventually, Finland’s NATO membership would open the doors to a different era, Oguz said, arguing that accession would pave the way for a dangerous arms race.
Retired Ambassador Uluç Özülker: Russia cannot say that “this is my red line” for Finland’s NATO membership.
Commenting on the process from a historical perspective, Retired Ambassador Uluç Özülker emphasized Finland’s status of impartiality during the Soviet Union era. “When Finland applies to join NATO, Russia will say, ‘This is a red line for me.’ And you just don’t come out.” he said.
“Finland is not a very big country, but a country of lakes. It is a very profitable and forested country. Fighting under these climatic conditions is no easy task.” He said that what the Soviet Union wanted from Finland was the same as what Russia wanted from Ukraine.
Focusing on the permanent neutrality status of Switzerland, Sweden and Austria alongside Finland in Europe, Özülker said, “When the United Nations (UN) was established, Switzerland did not enter the EU. Again, he chose not to join the EU. However, Switzerland positions itself where it can say, “I’m neutral in my policy, but I can collaborate with the West.” Austria and Finland, on the other hand, have slightly different status. They are countries that have gained sovereignty by escaping from the yoke. So there is an important difference.” thoroughly.
Özülker stated that Russia does not want the Eastern European countries to be part of the military alliance, adding, “There is no room for Russia to be persistent in preventing Finland’s membership in NATO.”
Journalist Atila Altuntaş: Russia cannot afford to wage war against Finland after Ukraine.
“The process of NATO membership is still under discussion in Finland,” journalist Atila Altuntas said, noting that 53 per cent of Finnish citizens, along with politicians, welcome the accession. “Finland’s membership in NATO may create a transformation. NATO brain death was said to have occurred. To overcome this rhetoric, NATO has long sought to convince Sweden and Finland of membership. Politicians in Sweden and Finland were also dismissive of their countries’ NATO accession because for a long time the people regarded NATO as an “occupying, imperialist, expansionist union”. However, the Russian invasion of Ukraine sparked deep fear among the public in Finland and Sweden, and the desire to join NATO rose above 50% in both countries.” he said.
Altuntas asserted that Russia would take a hard line if Finland becomes a NATO member. “Russia has said that Finland and Sweden’s application to join NATO would have military and political consequences. However, the prolonged war in Ukraine and the unexpected reaction by Russia from the West make things difficult. After Ukraine, Russia can’t afford to start a war in Finland; however, it can also impose an economic embargo by giving up gas and oil.” assessments.