AFP Spectators at a flag ceremony at NATO headquarters in Brussels
NOS Nieuws•vandaag, 19:37
With Finland’s entry into NATO, the length of Russia’s common border with the alliance has more than doubled. Above all, Russia reacts with irritation to the latest NATO expansion and, as before, hints at negative consequences for Finland’s security and at inevitable countermeasures.
Until now, Russian border guards have been face to face with their NATO counterparts in Poland, the Baltic States and Norway, over a total length of 1215 kilometres. Now there is another 1340 kilometers. This radically changed the geopolitical map of Northwest Europe in one fell swoop.
“This is definitely an event that will not contribute to improving stability, security and predictability on the European continent,” Kremlin spokesman Peskov said in response to Finland’s NATO membership. He added that accession poses “an additional threat” to Russia.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov said Russia will announce the promised countermeasures at “an appropriate time”. “We have the military means and the political will, our society is committed to protecting our sovereignty and averting any threat,” Ryabkov said.
Russian commentators argue in unison that Finland’s NATO membership will not contribute to greater security for Finland, on the contrary. “Even there, people understand that Russia is forced to take countermeasures and to increase the military presence (along the border, ed.),” writes the deputy chairman of the Federation Council Kosachev in the state newspaper Rossiskaya Gazeta.
According to him, Finland has knowingly brought in a “strategic threat” by joining NATO. The only reason, the senator knows, is “to piss off Russia”. “It brings a new problem to Europe, by liquidating the last more or less neutral buffer zone between the West and Russia.”
In recent years, Russia has repeatedly pointed out to Finland the possible negative consequences of NATO membership, even when that prospect seemed a long way off. When NATO decided in 2014 to station multinational battalions along the external borders in Poland and the Baltic States in response to the annexation of Crimea and the start of the war in eastern Ukraine, President Putin seized the opportunity to Sauli Niinistö once again pointing out the status quo, which is advantageous for neutral Finland.
“What should we do in response to the expansion of NATO’s presence along our borders?” Putin wondered aloud, before subtly pointing out that Russia had withdrawn its troops to within 1,500 kilometers of the Russian border. It was an undisguised warning to the Finns to avoid joining NATO.
Far-reaching military steps
But after Russian troops crossed the border with neighboring Ukraine in February last year, the process accelerated. The fact that the accession of the Finns was unexpected for Russia is evident from the differing reactions on the Russian side.
Former president Dmitry Medvedev traditionally reacted fiercely and threatened far-reaching military steps, such as increasing the military presence, including in the Gulf of Finland, if Finland and Sweden joined NATO. “In that case, there can no longer be a nuclear-weapon-free status for the Baltic Sea,” said Medvedev.
Putin was significantly more lenient, especially in the face of Russia’s years of vehement opposition to a theoretical future NATO membership for Ukraine or Georgia, pointing out to the Finnish president by telephone that Finland’s abandonment of traditional neutrality would be a mistake,” since the security of Finland is not threatened by anything”. It could damage the good bilateral relations.
‘Cold War relic’
Once the Finnish and Swedish requests to join NATO were made, Putin merely made the remarkably laconic statement that the process poses “no direct threat to Russia” and that Sweden and Finland can join NATO “if they want to”. , which he called a relic of the Cold War.
“Russia has no problem with Sweden and Finland,” Putin said at a summit in Turkmenistan last June. “But we will certainly respond to the expansion of military infrastructure in that region.”