By Kevin Zhang
Finland has officially become the 31st member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization security alliance, spelling out bad news for Russia. The accession of Finland into NATO effectively doubles NATO’s border with Russia.
The Finnish foreign minister handed the accession document to the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who subsequently declared Finland a member of the alliance.
Later, in front of NATO’s new headquarters, Finland’s flag was raised alongside a circle of 30 other flags.
Russian president Vladimir Putin has repeatedly complained about NATO’s expansion before launching his invasion of Ukraine.
Blinken said that by attacking his neighbor, Putin has triggered exactly what he had sought to prevent.
Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for the Kremlin, warned that Russia would be “watching closely” what happens in Finland, and described NATO’s continued enlargement as a “violation of our security and our national interests”.
A military band played Finland’s national anthem followed by the NATO Hymn. Beyond the perimeter fence a small group of protesters waved Ukrainian flags and chanted “Ukraine in NATO”, a reminder of the ongoing invasion of Ukraine, which prompted non-aligned Finland and Sweden to apply for NATO membership in the first place.
Finland shares a 1,340 kilometer eastern frontier with Russia and after the war in Ukraine began, Helsinki chose to join the protection of NATO’s Article Five, which states that an attack on one member nation is an attack on all. If Finland were attacked, all NATO members, including the U.S., would come to its aid.
Russia’s invasion prompted a surge in Finnish public opinion towards joining NATO upwards of 80% in favor of the decision.
“It is a great day for Finland,” said Finnish President Sauli Niinisto. “Security and stability are those elements which we feel very strongly; if people can live in secure stable circumstances that’s the basic element of happy life.”