How Finland Abandoned Neutrality and Turned Toward NATO

One of the big political/strategic changes that Vladimir Putin’s expanded invasion of Ukraine has wrought has been rapid applications for NATO membership from Finland and Sweden. To get some informed opinion about this likely big expansion of NATO, I interviewed professor Dr. Stefan Forss. He is a highly respected Finnish expert on defense and security and the author of several publications and monographs, most recently the chapters “No Longer a Junior Partner” in the book Defence and Security—Festschrift in Honour of Tomas Ries, “Russia’s Victim Narrative” and “Russian Nuclear Policy, Doctrine and Strategy” in Russia’s Military Strategy and Doctrine, Howard and Czekaj eds. (Jamestown Foundation, 2019), and “Deterrence in The Nordic-Baltic Region: The Role of the Nordic Countries Together with the U.S. Army” (U.S. Army War College Press, 2019) He has also written two screenplays for films about Finland’s fights against the USSR, Beyond the Front Line (2004) and 1944: The Final Defense (2007)

Andrew Fink: Finland is a robust democracy and a solid ally of the U.S., U.K., and other major NATO countries, generally considered to be “Western European” even though it is one of the easternmost countries in the EU. Why isn’t Finland already part of NATO? 

Dr. Stefan Forss: Mostly because of inertia. There was no political appetite in Finland to join NATO in the 1990s. The focus was on being an active participant in the European Union’s Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) ever since its establishment in the 1990s.

Keep in mind that Finland fought hard to be recognized as a neutral country during the Cold War. Despite the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance (FCMA) between Finland and the Soviet Union in 1948, Finnish neutrality was acknowledged in the West, but it was only in 1989 that Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev acknowledged Finland as a neutral country. After so many decades, Finns experienced sort of a sigh of relief. At last! 

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