75 Jahre NATO

Finland in NATO is a Security Provider

Finland in NATO is a Security Provider Foto: Juha Roininen

by Klaus Korhonen, Ambassador of Finland to NATO in 2023, when Finland officially joined NATO         

A brief but dignified ceremony in front of NATO Headquarters, Brussels, marked Finland’s accession to the Atlantic Alliance on 4 April 2023, NATO’s 74th anniversary. Secretary General Stoltenberg and then president Sauli Niinistö gave speeches that reflected the significance of the day. “The era of military non-alignment in our history has come to an end. A new era begins.”, said the President of the Republic.

The Finnish flag was raised to the new flagpole that had appeared among those of existing Allies. After that, the yellow-blue identity cards of an Invitee Country were taken away from the staff of the Finnish Delegation and the all-blue Member State IDs were given to replace them. Finland had become the 31st nation to the North-Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

Joining NATO was a big step, but also in many ways natural development in Finland’s foreign and security policy.  Finland and Sweden already for years had been NATO’s closest Partners. Technical and military interoperability was at a high level, and Finland had participated in almost all NATO-led crisis management operations after the end of the Cold War. Democracy, human rights and international law are important for Finland, and these are the very things that NATO is defending.

We had excellent relations with all members of NATO already before our accession but now we are part of the Transatlantic Community like never before.

Finland became a member of the European Union already 29 years ago, and a large majority of our fellow EU members were also members of NATO. What is really new is that Finland for the first time in its history is also allied with the United States and Canada. We had excellent relations with all members of NATO already before our accession but now we are part of the Transatlantic Community like never before. Advancing cooperation between the European Union and NATO is now one of the main goals of Finland as an Ally.

Northern European landmass is framed by the Baltic Sea, North Atlantic and the Barents Sea, and Finland and Sweden have been all the time there in the middle. In practical terms Finland has been protecting NATO’s Northern Flank already as a Partner. Joining NATO makes geostrategic sense both to the Alliance and to our two nations. Finland’s accession to NATO increases Finland’s security and the security of NATO.

After the Cold War Finland never cut back on its defence

NATO is a defence alliance and is trying to advance peace in the world. Finland’s accession to this Alliance is not aimed against anybody. Alexander Stubb, the new President of Finland, noted in his inaugural speech on 1 March this year, that “as an ally, Finland will contribute to NATO’s collective deterrence and defence”. Certainly, Finland intends to be a security provider. We continue to be responsible for the defence or our own territory and sovereignty.

After the Cold War Finland never cut back on its defence. We continue to have a conscription army with a wartime strength of approximately 280.000 soldiers, and the number of trained reserves is close to one million – in a country of 5.5 million people. Finland’s air defence will be enhanced by the 64 new F-35 jet fighters, that beginning from 2026 will replace the F-18s as fighters of our Air Force. Our defence spending is well above the target of 2 percent of GDP that NATO members have committed themselves to. According to NATO’s figures, Finland’s defence spending is currently sixth largest among 32 Allies.  Finland will also bring to the Alliance a lot of expertise on countering hybrid threats and on strengthening the resilience of our societies. We have been able to engage the public sector and private enterprises to cooperate in resilience and safeguarding the critical functions of the society in a way that interested NATO already during our status as a Partner Country.

Finland’s values, interests and goals have not changed. NATO is a new forum in which to promote them together with 31 like-like minded Allies. It has been said, that we now live in the age of maximum danger and minimum agreement in international relations. Managing and preventing risks in such a situation is as necessary as it is difficult. NATO is very important for my country, and Finland’s accession makes NATO stronger.

NATO is about solidarity

After Russia’s brutal and illegal invasion of Ukraine 24 February 2022, Finland immediately joined the large group of countries that are giving robust assistance to Ukraine, especially the urgently needed heavy weapons and ammunition. Finnish aid to Ukraine per capita is today among the highest of NATO Allies.

Russia’s attack was also the decisive factor that changed Finnish public opinion in favour of joining NATO. It triggered an intensive political process to adapt Finland’s orientation to a changed security environment.

NATO is about solidarity. According to a recent poll, 91% of the Finnish population is willing to defend another NATO Ally in case of an aggression. We are committed to the security of every Member of NATO. One of the first solidarity steps as an Ally is participation in NATO’s peacetime missions. In 2024, the Finnish Navy will participate in Mine Countermeasures mission in the Baltic Sea, and the Air Force will take part in NATO’s Air Shielding mission in Romania, Bulgaria and the Black Sea.

On 4 April 2024 Finland celebrated its first anniversary as a NATO Ally. One for all, all for one.

About the author: Klaus Korhonen, Ambassador for Policy Planning at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Helsinki. Mr. Korhonen was previous Finnish ambassador to NATO during the accession process.


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