Geopolitical Insights

SITREP – Finland Joins NATO

April 4, 2023
What has Happened:
  • Earlier today, Finland joined NATO as the alliance's 31st member (doubling the size of NATO’s border with Russia).
  • This news comes as a setback for Putin, who cited NATO’s expansion as a major reason for his invasion of Ukraine last year.
  • As expected, the Russian Foreign Ministry threatened “military, technical, and other retaliatory measures.”
  • Previously, both Finland and Sweden had a stated policy of non-alignment, but changed course after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
  • Finland has a long-standing relationship with NATO and its troops regularly conduct exercises with NATO forces.
  • Finland already operates many of the same weapons systems as other NATO members such as F/A-18 fighters (as well as being part of the F-35 program), Leopard main battle tanks, and K9 howitzers.
  • With respect to Sweden’s application to NATO, Turkey and Hungary are still opposed, but the push to include Sweden in the alliance will continue.
Why it Matters:

“This is an important event as it creates an undefended border that was previously not a threat. That likely means that Putin will redistribute current forces to defend the border (or accept risk). Finland has a force of ~250k personnel, 300+ tanks, and a competent air capability consisting of ~100 aircraft. It cannot be ignored completely, so some asset repositioning is likely to occur as is future growth in Russian capabilities. It also presents a challenge to Russia’s current force posture (and the call-up of 100k-300k troops). I don’t think that this will help in recruiting, but it does play well into Putin’s narrative that NATO (led by the U.S.) is trying to isolate and punish Russia. It also works well in driving home the need to win the proxy war with NATO in Ukraine or risk further NATO expansion. While NATO expansion is what Putin wanted to avoid, it is now a reality. From here, any action on NATO soil (whether conventional or nuclear) is less likely because Putin now has a very vulnerable flank that is exposed and undefended.” General Frank Kearney


“NATO membership is based on shared values of national self-determination, democratic governance, military preparedness, economic vibrancy (based on open and free market forces), and a willingness to subordinate national security interests to the overarching goals of the alliance. Finland meets this criteria and has every right to apply for membership in NATO. The alliance is wise to accept Finland as its 31st member state. NATO is not an “anti-Russia” group of nations. Putin has threatened to retaliate against NATO for its expansion and for encroaching on his self-described “Russian sphere of influence.” His protests are hollow. Putin is trying to re-draw the Eastern European map to fit his distorted view of self-determination through his current war of conquest against Ukraine. This war decidedly does not fit the normal definition of “politics among nations.” The Russian Federation embraces none of the core principles of NATO. In some future (albeit unlikely and distant), Russia might be able to be welcomed into the alliance.” General Spider Marks