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What Does Finland’s Border Closure with Russia Mean?

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Despite its geographical proximity to Russia, Finland and Russia have had relations with each other at different periods throughout history, at times in close cooperation and at other times in conflict. Relations between the two countries have been shaped not only by their geographical location but also by historical, cultural and strategic factors.

Recently, these relations have again come into hot conflict with the refugee problem on their borders. Finland has announced that it will close its last border crossing due to concerns that Moscow is using migrants as part of a “hybrid war”.[1]

Hybrid warfare combines traditional and modern methods to weaken the enemy’s resistance and poses a new security threat in international relations. Finland’s decision to close its borders against Russia is a concrete example of hybrid warfare strategies today.

In November 2023, Finland closed 7 out of 8 checkpoints on its border with Russia. As of November 29, 2023, it was announced that all checkpoints would be closed. The justification for this was that Russia was directing refugees from the Middle East and Africa to the border crossing. Until December 13, 2023, checkpoints will not be opened.

Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo said that his country was facing an exceptional situation:[2]

“This is a Russian influence operation and we do not accept it. We do not accept any attempt to undermine our national security. Russia caused this situation and only it can stop it.”

Speaking in Brussels, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that Russia is using migration as another tool to put pressure on its neighbors:[3]

“I think this is another example of Russia using many different tools to put pressure on its neighbors. We’ve seen them use energy, we’ve seen them use cyber attacks, we’ve seen them use different kinds of covert operations to try to undermine our democracies.”

According to Finland, more than 900 asylum seekers from countries such as Somalia, Yemen, Iraq and Syria entered the country from Russia in November. This is considered to be a very high number for Finland.

Russia may have directed asylum seekers to the border to punish Finland’s cooperation with the US. Bilateral relations have deteriorated in recent months, especially since Finland joined NATO in April 2023. The EU believes that recent incidents at the border could be part of a hybrid war being waged by Russia, which is using non-military weapons, including disinformation, to destabilize Europe.

Before joining NATO, Finland imposed sanctions on Moscow as a result of a joint EU resolution on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Finnish authorities have warned that Russia might retaliate by seeking ways to destabilize the country, such as cyber-attacks and luring migrants to its borders. A similar situation occurred in Finland in 2015-2016. In October 2023, Russia allegedly launched cyber-attacks on Finland.

In conclusion, these incidents suggest that differences of opinion are not only on the ground, but also in many ways. It requires a delicate balance between national security, human rights and international law. Finland’s decision demonstrates the need to focus not only on relations between the two countries, but also on a broader perspective of regional and global security dynamics. It also reveals the complexity of methods of attack that go beyond traditional military methods in an evolving world.

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  • Finland’s decision to close its borders against Russia is a concrete example of today’s hybrid war strategies.

[1] Jari Tanner, “Finland Will Close İts Entire Border With Russia Over Migrant Concerns.”, AP News, https://apnews.com/article/finland-russia-border-closed-dffd46cade3594f5739222e31bb82a44, (Erişim Tarihi: 29.11.2023).

[2] Same place.

[3] Miranda Bryant-Lisa O’Carroll, “Finland Closes Entire Border With Russia After Tensions Over Asylum Seekers.”, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/nov/28/finland-closes-entire-border-with-russia-after-tensions-over-asylum-seekers, (Erişim Tarihi: 29.11.2023).

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