Finland’s flag is being raised on Tuesday afternoon at Nato headquarters, a deeply symbolic moment marking the Nordic nation’s official welcome into the alliance and the shifting power calculations as the West strengthens its allegiances in response to the war in Ukraine.
The President of Finland, Sauli Niinisto, is expected to attend the ceremony, on the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s 74th anniversary, in what amounts to a strategic defeat for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, who has made blocking Nato expansion a goal of his leadership.
With Finland’s membership unlocked by Turkey’s vote last week to ratify its entry, Nato’s border with Russia is doubling and the alliance has gained access to a strong military with a deep history of countering its bigger neighbour.
The ceremony comes as foreign ministers from the alliance gather in Brussels for a two-day meeting. Finland’s foreign minister, Pekka Haavisto, will attend the meeting — Finland’s first as a full-fledged member — although many details about how his country, which shares a 1,335km border with Russia, will integrate into the alliance are yet to be determined.
A new Finnish government, still to be negotiated following an election on Sunday, will have to decide whether Finland will accept foreign troops on its soil, for example, or even nuclear weapons belonging to allies.
Niinisto judged quickly after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine that Finland’s best protection was to drop its military nonalignment and apply to join Nato. His judgement was influential for a more hesitant Sweden, which has also applied to join.
The Swedes were meant to join “hand in hand” with Finland, but that has been left undone as Turkey still objects to Sweden’s membership, and Hungary, too, is stalling ratification.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey continues to express his displeasure with the depth of Sweden’s commitment to fighting terrorism — in particular, those whom Erdogan regards as terrorists, including certain Kurds and others he believes supported the 2016 coup attempt.
New York Times News Service