Updated Apr 4, 2023, 10:41am EDT

Finland's flag raised as country officially joins NATO

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg attends a news conference before a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels, Belgium April 3, 2023.
REUTERS/Johanna Geron

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The News

Finland joined NATO on Tuesday, becoming the 31st member of the world’s biggest military alliance.

The Finnish flag was raised outside the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels, joining those of other member states.

Finland applied to join the bloc last year after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russia, with which Finland shares an 832-mile border. Its entry marks the first enlargement of NATO since North Macedonia joined in 2020, and came on the 74th anniversary of the alliance’s establishment.

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Finland’s Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto signed the accession documents and handed them to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken at a ceremony in Brussels on Tuesday, officially completing a year-long process to join the bloc.

“With receipt of this instrument of accession, we can now declare that Finland is the 31st member of the North Atlantic Treaty,” Blinken, who is the official Keeper of the Treaty, said.

Addressing media alongside Haavisto after the accession, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Russian President Vladimir Putin had “failed” to “slam NATO's door shut,” adding that NATO and Finland had shown “the world ... that aggression and intimidation do not work.”

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Step Back

Turkey and Hungary, which previously opposed Finland’s membership, ratified their approval of the country’s membership last week.

But Sweden, which applied to join NATO at the same time as Finland last year, is still being blocked by Ankara, which accuses Stockholm of allowing Kurdish militants to demonstrate on its streets. Hungary has also not approved Sweden's application.

Any expansion of NATO requires unanimous support from existing members.

On Monday Stoltenberg said he hoped Sweden’s approval would quickly follow.

Finland and Sweden both have a long history of wartime neutrality, but support for joining the defense bloc rose dramatically in both nations after Moscow's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

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Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said Finland had entered a “new era” with its accession into the bloc.

“The era of military non-alignment in our history has come to an end. A new era begins,” Niinisto said. “Finland’s membership is not complete without that of Sweden,” he added, advocating for the neighboring country’s admission.

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The View From the Kremlin

Ahead of the welcome ceremony on Tuesday, the Kremlin warned it would take “countermeasures” in response to Finland joining NATO. “The expansion of NATO is an assault on our security and Russia’s national interests,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said.

On Monday Moscow said it would reinforce its defenses near its shared border with Finland if NATO deploys any troops in its newest member.

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The View From Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy congratulated Finland and Niinisto on joining the alliance. He called the country’s accession the “only effective guarantee of security in the region” against Russian “aggression.”

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The View From the US

U.S. President Joe Biden welcomed Finland to NATO. “When Putin launched his brutal war of aggression against the people of Ukraine, he thought he could divide Europe and NATO. He was wrong,” Biden said in a statement. “Today, we are more united than ever. And together—strengthened by our newest Ally Finland—we will continue to preserve transatlantic security, defend every inch of NATO territory, and meet any and all challenges we face.”

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The View From the UK

U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak congratulated Finland on its accession, and urged Turkey and Hungary to move quickly to approve Sweden.

“All NATO members now need to take the steps necessary to admit Sweden too, so we can stand together as one Alliance to defend freedom in Europe and across the world,” Sunak said in a statement.


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