Russia Responds to Finland and Sweden’s Application to NATO

At the end of World War II, one of the reasons Finland was not occupied by Russia was because it agreed to never join NATO or the Warsaw pact. Its neutrality served its people well for decades and it enjoyed massive economic growth and prosperity. This month Finland walked back its promise of neutrality and applied to join NATO.

On the surface it is easy to see why the country has thrown away decades of sitting on the sidelines neutral as the world’s superpowers vied for hegemony. Russia’s invasion raises the possibility of Putin not stopping at Ukraine’s borders. It is possible the Russian president has imperial ambitions of his own. Membership in NATO might deter further aggression. A deeper analysis reveals a complex set of problems, however.

Finland is very dependent on Russian energy. It relies on Russian exports for over half of its energy needs, and although it is building a nuclear reactor to ease its dependence on foreign energy, it is dependent on Russia for the plutonium to run it. Although Finland has not officially joined the alliance yet, Russian companies have already started to turn off the electricity. The European Union (EU) is already stretched thin with respect to its own energy needs and the Russian embargo, so it is unlikely that they will be able to make up the difference.

The other problem for Finland is where it is located geographically. It shares a border with Russia. One of Putin’s public reasons for the invasion of Ukraine is it is trying to prevent having a NATO country on its border. Russia has already responded by moving nuclear capable Iskander missiles to the Finnish border, raising the temperature in a region already in a hot war.

It is also unclear what NATO gains from admitting the Scandinavian country. If Russia were to invade, Finland would accept any help offered and NATO does not need Finland’s army for deterrence. The move appears more antagonistic than strategic. Even though Finland has not been admitted to the alliance, everyone is acting as if it is a sure thing. Hopefully, this moment will not be looked back on as the beginning of a much larger conflict.