It Is Finn-ished
Finland, now a NATO member, could be in for a rude awakening.
Sanna Marin, the Finnish prime minister, has become a favorite of the transatlantic liberal elite in recent years. Like their other poster children, such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Marin purportedly spoke with refreshing moral clarity on issues such as Covid-19 and climate change. The real reason for all the hoopla, however, is that Marin is young and easy on the eyes. She’s fitting for a poster.
Despite the liberal elite’s enchantment, Marin’s rising star has quickly turned into a supernova. On Monday, her Social Democrats, though gaining three seats, came in third place behind the center-right National Coalition Party and the populist right Finns Party. Her coalition allies, which frequently boasted about how they were all led by women, got trounced. Apparently, Finns don’t like it when their prime minister uses taxpayer dollars on expensive groceries and catering, much less when said prime minister goes MIA and turns up in videos grinding on a pop-star and getting down on the dance floor.
Yet, as history recorded Marin's defeat, it also recorded what is likely to be the most consequential, lasting effect of her leadership: As of Tuesday, Finland is a member of NATO.
In response to Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine, Marin’s government decided to drop the country’s long-standing neutrality and apply for NATO membership. It was a knee-jerk reaction based on the idea that Putin would next set his sights on Finland.
Even though Finland was once part of the Russian Empire, Finland has nowhere near the level of shared history and culture with Russia as Ukraine does. And despite the fact that Russia and Finland fought over territory in World Wars I and II, wars that ultimately expelled the Soviets but forced Finland to cede some border territories to the Soviet Union, both governments have publicly repeated that no territorial dispute remains between the two. If a Karelian question remains, it’s by no means a pressing one.
This is a far cry from the situation in Ukraine since the breakup of the Soviet Union, which has seen violations of the Belovezha Accords and the Minsk agreements, the American-supported Euromaidan revolution in 2014, war in the Donbas over the Donbas’s desire to join Russia, and Ukraine’s expressed desire to join NATO.
But fears of the Tsar's return have taken hold. Polling suggests about 80 percent of Finns support joining NATO. Yet, in this week's elections, the Finn Party, a populist, right-wing party that stresses sovereignty, E.U. skepticism, and the most resistance to joining NATO (though the party has said it would stay out of the way of blocking a NATO bid), experienced its best-ever result and will likely be the center right's most powerful coalition partner.
It’s hard to blame the average Finn for wanting NATO membership. For now, it comes at zero cost to them. Given that most European NATO members, happy to free-ride on the United States, are still failing to meet NATO defense spending obligations even after the war in Ukraine broke out, Finland can continue devoting less than 2 percent of its GDP to defense. Why shouldn't Finland also seek to bask under the shade of the American nuclear umbrella?
It appears the Finns have forgotten that neutrality has served them well. Neutrality during the Cold War ensured Finland remained a sovereign, free society as nearby states were absorbed into the Soviet apparatus. Forgoing Marshall Plan funds and NATO membership kept diplomatic channels with the Soviet Union open. The Soviets extended the gesture in kind and did not call on Finland to join its Warsaw Pact, enabling Finland to develop its market-based economy and robust social safety net, all the while vastly improving its national defense capabilities. Putting Finland first is precisely what previously made it the exemplar to many in Europe and those on the American left.
By dropping neutrality and becoming a full-fledged NATO member, Finland has opened another frontier for mutual escalation. The 830-mile shared border between Russia and Finland more than doubles the length of NATO’s prior border with Russia, which spanned 755 miles. While Russia has expressed little if any interest in territorial expansion to its northwest, it certainly isn’t going to ignore another border state entering a military alliance with the sole purpose of confronting Russia.
Therefore, Russia has announced it will reinforce its military positions in its northwestern regions. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko told state-owned news outlet RIA that “in the event that the forces and resources of other NATO members are deployed in Finland, we will take additional steps to reliably ensure Russia's military security."
Meanwhile, Ukraine appears emboldened by NATO’s increased commitment to enlargement in Russia’s backyard. Over the weekend, Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov made public what Ukraine plans to do once it takes back Crimea.
The plan includes dismantling the twelve-mile bridge that connects Crimea to Russia over the Black Sea and renaming the city of Sevastopol, which has served as the main base for the Russian Navy’s Black Sea fleet since 2014. The most radical provision in Danilov's plan was the criminal prosecution of ethnic Ukrainians who worked for the Russian-linked administration in Crimea. Others would lose their jobs and be barred from working in the public sector.
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It’s all insane, but not nearly as insane as the overarching premise of the plan: a Ukrainian invasion of Crimea, viewed by the Russians, legitimately or not, as their sovereign territory.
Ukraine, sometimes with the encouragement of the United States, has rebuffed all calls for peace, repeatedly making unrealistic demands of Russia, such as a total withdrawal from Crimea, to even start the peace process. As Ukraine publicly plans to use American and other NATO-supplied weapons to attempt to invade Crimea, there has not been a peep of protest from the Biden administration, except for the occasional confirmation that the U.S. does not recognize Crimea as Russian territory. But there should be an uproar—a NATO-backed invasion of Russia by proxy will almost guarantee the outbreak of a wider war.
Congrats, Finland on becoming the thirty-first member of NATO. Imagine their shock when they realize being a member of NATO means fighting NATO’s wars of choice.