By Shohom Chakraborty
Following a unanimous vote by 30 alliance members, the nation of Finland became the newest member state of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). For decades, NATO has been a force for the preservation of international security and peace. However, in spite of Finland’s admittance into this international organization, there have been increasing concerns about the ramifications of NATO’s expansion on the global political landscape. Amidst the Russia-Ukraine conflict, a rise in tensions between the Russian Federation and NATO has come about.
Founded in 1949, NATO is an international military alliance that provides mutual defense for all member states. Under its treaty, any NATO member directly attacked by a foreign nation will be defended by all other members. The alliance was originally created to provide collective security for Western Europe and North America against the Soviet Union. Since then, NATO has expanded its membership as well as its role in international security, conducting dozens of operations around the world, including overseas military intervention, training missions and air policing. Despite the organization’s evolution over the course of its history, one thing has remained challenging and tense for decades: NATO’s relationship with Russia.
“Now, with NATO expanding even further eastward, nearly doubling its border with Russia itself, the new geopolitical situation could cause further conflict...”
Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, tensions began to rise between Moscow and NATO regarding the issue of formerly-Soviet Eastern European countries. Russia had requested Western powers not to expand NATO to these territories, which have historically been under the Russian sphere of influence. These requests were denied, however, as the organization continued its eastward expansion. Finally, when NATO had offered membership to Ukraine in the late 2000s, the tensions erupted, and Russia began a military offensive against the country in 2014.
“Since the fall of the Soviet Union and the birth of Russia, the remaining tensions following the Cold War period have continued to strain and haunt U.S. and Western relations with the European superpower,” junior Ethan Mehta said. “While I understand that Russia’s actions in Ukraine are totally unwarranted, the situation of U.S. and NATO’s overexpansion of military and industrial technology has furthered the wedge driven towards a peaceful resolution. If NATO did not close-in on Russia’s borders, there wouldn’t be as much of a conflict, as the invasion of Crimea was a reactionary measure. I do still believe that Putin’s acts are completely unwarranted, and no outside force excuses war crimes or attacks on sovereign land.”
Russia's growing anti-western ideologies, resentment of NATO's expansion and existing connections to Ukraine all play a significant role in its decision to invade the country. Now, with NATO expanding even further eastward, nearly doubling its border with Russia itself, the new geopolitical situation could cause further conflict.
Source by Rachel Houng
“In my opinion, Finland joining NATO is a net-positive for the region,” freshman Dhruv Maheshwari said. “NATO offers Finland protection from its neighbor Russia, and in turn, Finland offers strategic power to NATO. If executed properly, this should be a positive event for world peace.”
Last year, Russia had made open threats to NATO if Finland and its neighbor, Sweden, were to join. As mentioned by Russian officials, the inclusion of Finland in NATO would allow America to set up advanced military equipment along the sizable border between the two states, which would be a militaristic disadvantage for an already weakened Russia amidst the Ukrainian conflict. However, these officials also stated that Russia would not take the lengthening of Russian-NATO borders lightly, promising that the nation would not hesitate to retaliate using air, naval and land defense. In fact, Finland has already begun construction on a barbed wire fence along its 832-mile border with Russia as a precautionary measure.
“I think it’s important that countries start moving towards alliances, whether it’s on our preferred side or not,” sophomore Alex Tomalski said. “However, I do feel that it’s more important to focus on countries currently under fire, as there are many people suffering. Finland joining NATO is obviously a very important step in the direction of their safety, however when it comes to global priority, attention should be more focused towards those currently under oppression.”
Finland’s inclusion in NATO has broken its decades-long policy of militaristic non-alignment, largely due to public opinion against Moscow’s invasion of its neighbor, Ukraine. With thousands of soldiers dead and far less progress made than anticipated, the Russian invasion of Ukraine may be coming to a standstill. Furthermore, Finland’s NATO membership has continued the geopolitical trend of Eastern European nations increasingly allying with Western powers for security. While public opinion remains mixed, most students at NHP view Finland joining NATO as a positive.