Joining NATO was simple for Finland, now comes the hard part

Finland joined NATO in record time. Having overcome initial opposition to Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey with relative ease, the country is now a full member of the Alliance. Helsinki’s choice to end decades of military neutrality was determined by fears of an invasion of Ukraine and possible aggression by Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Population support for membership rose from about one quarter before the war to over 80 percent after the war. The entry had the immediate effect of doubling the border between NATO and Russia, with a 1,340 kilometer land border that must be considered at the most tense moment since the end of the Cold War.

And now with membership and all the rights it entails, tasks begin to come, starting with the partners’ commitment to defend the nation in case of attack, and they will not be so easy to complete. Finland has already increased its defense budget, partly to cover the purchase of F-35 fighter jets and new ships to better patrol its seas and hunt submarines.

Like every member government, Helsinki had to commit to spending at least 2% of gross domestic product on the military; But beyond that, joining the Alliance will require significant cultural, political, legal and military changes. The club has very broad requirements for its members: not only spending targets for the military, but also specific demands from each country for specific capabilities, weapons, troop strength and infrastructure, as defined by the Supreme Allied Commander Europe.

As the New York Times explains, the country will need to decide how to send its troops and equipment to Norway, Sweden or the Baltic states if it needs reinforcements, for example, or whether to participate in other NATO missions, such as patrolling Kosovo or the Mediterranean. , all the things he didn’t have to do before. All this while increasing the defense of its territory, especially on the border with Russia, which now sees itself as an enemy state.

To this end, the government is also negotiating a bilateral defense cooperation agreement with the United States; This is the kind of agreement Washington has with many countries around the world, making it easier to plan and speed up the implementation of joint exercises. The agreement will cover what kind of US troop presence Finland will allow, where, and what kind of equipment the Alliance’s most powerful country will make available. We can also talk about nuclear weapons, despite the fact that Finnish law (currently) prohibits the import or storage of atomic warheads on its territory.

Much of the responsibility for integration with NATO rests with General Timo Kivinen, commander of the Finnish Defense Forces. As the US newspaper recalls, the military knows the inner workings of NATO well, since Finland has long been a partner country and participates in Alliance exercises. Hundreds of NATO troops have been deployed on its territory almost continuously since the accession process began in April 2022, and as a subsequent candidate member, the country immediately began the first phase of joint defense planning in July of the same year.

However, now their troops will have to carry out joint missions in addition to defending their own borders. “We need to be able to contribute to NATO’s collective defense outside the borders of Finland, and this is something new for us,” General Kivinen said. This change of direction will impact Finnish forces “as we go about developing deployable capabilities, those capability objectives,” the official added.

There are a variety of missions outside its territory to which it can contribute, such as air policing, maritime task forces and possible participation in multinational forces deployed by the Alliance in other frontline countries. Finland will also have to decide which officers to supply to which NATO headquarters and how it wants to try to influence the alliance’s policies.

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Source: Today IT