Russia's president only has himself to blame for historically neutral Finland acquiring NATO status.
PARIS — Vladimir Putin used to complain that NATO territory was advancing towards Russia: as of Tuesday, he now has 1,340 kilometers (833 miles) of common border with a nation that has been welcomed into the Atlantic alliance, with the accession of Finland as the 31st member of NATO.
But the Russian president will not be able to blame NATO’s expansionism: He can only blame himself for this expansion. A year ago, Finland was firmly anchored in its neutral status, and it took the Russian invasion of Ukraine to break it out.
With Sweden, a country that has been neutral for even longer, the two Nordic neighbors quickly built a national consensus around the idea that it was no longer time for neutrality with a war on their doorstep. Decades of political posturing have been swept away in a few weeks — Putin has provoked the unthinkable.
But if there were two at the start (Sweden and Finland), there is only one left at the finish line: Sweden is stuck in the process of ratifying its membership, due to delaying tactics, mainly coming from Turkey. Stockholm will have to wait a few more weeks, at least until the Turkish election on May 15.
Concretely, Finland's membership does not evolve much, except that it is now covered by Article 5 of the Atlantic Charter, which provides for solidarity in case of aggression. For the rest, Finland is already up to NATO standards, and its defense is strong enough that it does not need reinforcements as is the case in Romania, Poland and the Baltic States.
At the Finland-Russia border
The great paradox is that the government that carried out this historic turnaround was defeated in Sunday's parliamentary elections. The social-democratic prime minister, Sanna Marin, came third, behind the right and the far right parties.
Marin, who was only 34 when she became prime minister in 2019, has earned a strong international reputation for her uncompromising style.
The defeat will not change Finnish foreign policy
She found herself at the center of an incredible controversy when a video of her dancing with friends was leaked. She had to undergo a drug test, but confirmed that she would continue to live a normal life while running the government. But the real reason behind her defeat is her economic management.
This defeat will not change Finnish foreign policy. Petteri Orpo, the leader of the center-right party that came out on top, clearly reaffirmed his support for Ukraine on Sunday night, and, as Sanna Marin, he was as committed to NATO membership. Either way, it will take weeks to form a coalition, with the social democrats or with the far right, and the negotiations will be difficult.
Sweden also voted the social democrats out of office last year in favor of a right-wing-led coalition that included the far right.
Nordic countries have long been a land of social democratic conquest, marginalizing other political forces. That is a distant memory, and political alternations are frequent, even if the way of life shaped by decades of welfare state remains the norm. These turns do not affect the defensive posture of these countries: when faced with Putin, consensus is quickly found.