Finland was the first of two countries, both Nordic states, to be accepted into NATO this year. Sweden remains blocked, however, due to Turkish objections over its stance on the conflict in Syria and other issues. Ankara has argued that Stockholm’s close ties with Syrian Kurdish forces could threaten Turkey’s security. The decision marks an important milestone for Finland as it continues its efforts towards closer integration within Europe and NATO. “This is a significant moment for Finland’s foreign policy and our relationship with our European partners,” said President Sauli Niinistö in a statement after the vote on Thursday night. He further added that he hoped this would lead to more cooperation between Finland and its neighbours in the region.
The decision was welcomed by Finnish President Sauli Niinistö, who said it marked the start of a new era for Finland and its relations with NATO. “It opens up great opportunities for Finland to strengthen our security and military cooperation with other members of the Alliance,” he said in a statement. The move comes amid increasing tensions between Russia and NATO nations, exacerbated by Moscow’s intervention in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. Turkey has been one of the region’s most vocal critics of Russian aggression. Its approval may help assuage fears that Moscow could use Sweden’s membership as leverage against NATO states.
Although many NATO members have welcomed Sweden’s interest in joining the alliance, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has voiced concerns about its proximity to Russia. He believes that allowing a country with close ties to Moscow into NATO could weaken the security of Europe and Turkey. Despite this opposition, Stoltenberg remains confident that Sweden will eventually enter the organization.
The move will make Finland the 30th member of NATO and its first new addition since 2009. It is also a major milestone in the country’s history as it has long been cautious about joining any military alliance. The decision to join NATO was taken after lengthy negotiations amid increasing tensions with neighbouring Russia over Moscow’s actions in Ukraine, Syria and elsewhere. Finland had already increased its defence cooperation with NATO before joining; it has consistently participated in joint exercises, training activities, operational missions abroad and multilateral meetings. With this membership announcement comes a signal of further strengthening ties between Finland and the Alliance for years to come.
At first, Turkey and Hungary seemed open to membership for both countries. However, their opposition became much more vocal when the applications were officially submitted. Turkish officials cited security concerns over an alliance that included two former Soviet republics as a primary reason for their reservations. Hungarian leaders echoed similar sentiments, citing economic uncertainties associated with expanding NATO’s boundaries eastward. As discussions proceeded on resolving these issues and ensuring adherence to NATO’s prerequisites for membership, another issue arose: Turkey wanted additional guarantees from Russia that it would not use force against its neighbours under any conditions before it could support new memberships for either country.