Finland became the 31st member of the NATO military alliance on Tuesday amid warnings of “countermeasures” from the Kremlin.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year prompted Finland — which has a 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) border with Russia — and its neighbor Sweden to drop decades of military non-alignment.
On Tuesday afternoon, Finland’s foreign minister handed the accession papers to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the keeper of NATO’s founding treaty.
Finland’s blue and white flag was then set to be hoisted alongside those of its new allies, alphabetically placed between the flags of Estonia and France, in front of NATO headquarters in Brussels.
“I’m tempted to say this is maybe the one thing that we can thank Mr. Putin for because he once again here precipitated something he claims to want to prevent by Russia’s aggression, causing many countries to believe that they have to do more to look out for their own defense and to make sure that they can deter possible Russian aggression going forward,” Blinken said just before accepting the documents that made Finland’s membership official.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg echoed the sentiment.
“President Putin wanted to slam NATO’s door shut. Today we show the world that he failed, that aggression and intimidation do not work,” Stoltenberg said.
Finnish security expert Henri Vanhanen told DW that the invasion of Ukraine last year marked a start of a new era.
“The masks have been removed and we sort of see the real face of Putin right now,” he said. “And I think in the foreseeable future, it will be difficult to see a sort of return to any sort of normal relationship with the Russians, at least as long as the current administration is in place.”
Helsinki will work “relentlessly” to secure Sweden’s membership of NATO, pledged Finnish President Sauli Niinisto on Tuesday.
“Finland’s membership is not complete without Swedish membership,” Niinisto said in a statement.
The United Kingdom also urged the military alliance to admit Sweden next.
“All NATO members now need to take the steps necessary to admit Sweden too, so we can stand together as one Alliance to defend freedom in Europe and across the world,” Sunak said in a statement after Finland officially joined.