The author, Fumiko Yamada specializes in ‘Bangladesh Affairs'. She is a research fellow in ‘Bangladesh Studies’ at the ‘University of Melbourne', Australia. She is a graduate of South Asian Studies, University of Toronto, Canada.
Russia's conflict with NATO is renewed amid the Russia-Ukraine war. On April 4, the Nordic country of Northern Europe, Finland, became the 31st member of the world's largest military alliance, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization-NATO. One of the advantages of joining NATO, which was founded in 1949 with only 12 countries, is NATO's collective defense policy. Where it is said that an attack on any member state of NATO will be considered as an attack on all members of the alliance. But in the current global situation, is Finland's NATO membership beneficial, or destructive? It is now a hot topic in world politics.
Finland is a country with a population of about 5.6 million; the area is 338,455 square kilometers. It has a 1340 km border with Russia. This border is crucial for protection of both Russia and Finland. Finland's accession to NATO is being portrayed in various media as a blow to Russia. As NATO has long accused, Russian President Vladimir Putin sought to weaken NATO and demanded that the bloc refrain from further expansion before attacking Ukraine. Finnish President Sauli Niinisto hailed the event as the start of a new era, adding that the membership was "not targeted against anyone".
Why mutual security between Finland and Russia is very important! Although Russia's rivalry with Finland has historically gone unnoticed, the people of Finland are always in a state of fear of a Russian invasion. Soviet forces invaded Finland in late 1939. The Soviet Union failed to capture Finland in this conflict that lasted for more than three months, but eventually 10 percent of Finland's territory was captured by the Soviets. Similarly, after the Russian attack on Ukraine last year, there was an insecurity among the people of Finland. So, Finland applied to join NATO in May 2022 to protect against Russian aggression and 80 percent of the public voted in favor of joining NATO.
Let's take a look at the possible hindrances of Finland joining NATO. First, important for the Russian Navy is the Baltic Fleet, which maintains Russia's naval presence in the Baltic Sea and currently has 43 Russian ships and one Kilo-class nuclear submarine operating in this route. As a result of Finland's accession to NATO, there will be a risk of Russia losing control over the Baltic Sea if NATO expands its influence over the Gulf of Finland and the Danish Straits. Any interruption of Russia's commercial or military actions could threaten the security of its second city, St. Petersburg. Second, Russia's concern over the Kola Peninsula. The Kola Peninsula is very important for nuclear power to Russia, which has Russia's largest nuclear arsenal. Also on this peninsula is Murmansk, the only port in Russia's Arctic Circle, which does not freeze even in winter. Another important port is Severomorsk, home to the Russian Northern Fleet Station, known as the center of Russia's nuclear deterrence. The Kola Islands are only connected to the Russian mainland by a road and rail highway, the 700 km long R-21 twin highway. Due to its location right next to the border with Finland, there is a fear that Russia's communication with Kola Island will be hindered if NATO defenses are increased in Finland. Third, the Pesetsk Cosmodrome, the launch site of Russia's Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM). Russia's largest arms depot is located at Okolnaya Bay here. Such Russian military and territorial security around Finland could be threatened by Finland's accession to NATO.
A cold message war has already started between Russia and NATO on this issue. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told the media that Finland will be safer and stronger now that it is part of the NATO alliance. President Putin's attack on NATO was aimed at reducing the number of NATO member states on their borders. He also announced the goal of not increasing the membership of NATO in Europe. At the same time, Russian spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the BBC that Moscow will monitor how NATO uses Finland's land. What kind of weapons and infrastructure are made there will also be seen. Russia will take action based on this.
Russia launched a war on Ukraine on 24 February 2022, asserting its own security, over a dispute over NATO accession. This war has had an extremely negative economic impact on the entire world economy. It is clear that Finland's accession to NATO was not taken lightly by Russia. But will the world see a new war?