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As Finland gains NATO membership, here’s what it means and why it matters

Finland will become the 31st member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on Tuesday. Here’s why the expansion of the defensive alliance was created to keep the United States, Canada, and Europe safe in the wake of World War II:

NATO was formed in 1949 by 12 countries, including the United States, Canada, and Western European countries. Its purpose was to ensure collective security against the Soviet Union. After the fall of the USSR, more countries joined the alliance and it more than doubled in size.

NATO’s stated mission is to “ensure the freedom and security of its members by political and military means.” At the heart of the treaty that established the alliance is Article 5, which states that an attack on one NATO member will be considered an attack on all of the allies. In the event of such an attack, it says members will take measures “to restore and maintain international peace and security”.

North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO, member countries highlighted in blue on world political map.  29 Member States as of June 2017

Member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) can be seen highlighted in blue ahead of Finland joining the alliance on April 4, 2023 to become the 31st member state. This map also does not reflect the 30th member state to join in 2019, North Macedonia.


Before this he started A full scale invasion of Ukraine On February 24, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin was long Complaints about NATO’s eastward expansion Europe and wanted to prevent additional countries from joining. He used this as a pretext for his attack on Ukraine, framing the coalition’s influence and military presence on the ground towards Russia’s borders as a threat.

Nordic countries, including Finland, showed little interest in becoming NATO members until Russia expanded its war in Ukraine. Although Finland served as a close partner of NATO for many years, it was officially non-aligned.

The West’s refusal to send troops to defend itself in non-NATO member Ukraine, however, raises the risk of non-alliance.

“If Ukraine had been part of NATO before the war, there would have been no war,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in May last year.

Finland has its own history with Moscow, having invaded the Soviet Union in 1939, and since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, support within Finland for joining NATO has risen from about a quarter of the population to 80%. the country Apply for membershipwith neighboring Sweden, in May 2022, despite Russian warnings against the move.

Both countries’ applications were put on hold by current NATO member Turkey, but Ankara has complained about support among the Nordic countries for Turkish opposition groups. Türkiye recently Finland’s membership bid approvedBut Sweden is still waiting to lower its resistance.

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Finland is Russia’s closest neighbor to the west. The two countries share nearly 800 miles of land border, and Finland’s membership in NATO would significantly strengthen security on NATO’s eastern flank.

While there is Finland NATO troops are not needed Standing “temporarily” on its border with Russia, its accession would give the alliance direct access to that 800-mile border, should it decide to deploy additional forces for strategic or security purposes.


Finnish reservists from the Guard Jaeger Regiment take part in a military exercise at Santa Hamina Military Base in Helsinki, Finland on March 7, 2023.

Alessandro Rampazzo/AFP/Getty

Just south of Finland are the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – all NATO members that directly border Russia or its close ally Belarus. These countries have long worried that Russia could use the Finnish islands as bases from which to launch attacks on their own territory. As Finland becomes a NATO member, they will be better protected.

“President Putin went to war against Ukraine with the clear goal of undermining NATO,” alliance secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said Monday. “He’s getting the exact opposite.”

Russia has said it will strengthen its own defenses in the west and northwest of its territory in response to NATO expansion.

CBS News correspondent Holly Williams contributed to this report.

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