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Leaders in Finland have indicated that their country is ready to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Sweden has been considering whether to join the alliance too. Good.
The move comes in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which according to the United Nations, has now claimed the lives of over 3,500 civilians — and that horrific toll is likely an undercount. Public opinion polls show support for joining NATO has swelled in Finland since the invasion.
“NATO membership would strengthen Finland’s security. As a member of NATO, Finland would strengthen the entire defence alliance,” Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin said in a joint statement on Thursday, according to the Associated Press.
“Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay,” the two leaders continued. “We hope that the national steps still needed to make this decision will be taken rapidly within the next few days.”
Both NATO leadership and the White House rightly welcomed the announcement from Finland.
“Should Finland decide to apply, they would be warmly welcomed into NATO, and the accession process would be smooth and swift,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told Newsweek in a statement.
The White House released a statement about President Joe Biden’s Friday call with Finnish and Swedish leaders.
“President Biden underscored his support for NATO’s Open Door policy and for the right of Finland and Sweden to decide their own future, foreign policy, and security arrangements,” the statement said.
Preposterously, but expectedly, Russia has already blamed Finland for escalating tensions with this expected move toward NATO membership. This from the same Russian government that has invaded a neighbor, destroyed cities, reportedly killed civilians and continuously tried to mislead the world and its own citizens about what they are doing and why they are doing it.
In unleashing a barbaric assault on Ukraine, Russia has weakened its own position while strengthening NATO. It was Vladimir Putin who brought death and misery to Ukraine, and as the Finnish leaders have said, Putin and Russia have only themselves to blame for this potential expansion of NATO.
“You (Russia) caused this. Look in the mirror,” Niinisto, the Finnish president, said Wednesday.
We remain concerned about escalation, and the imperative of avoiding global conflict or nuclear war. The Russians, however, do not get to be the aggressor and then play the victim. Finland and Sweden are reacting to Russia’s brutal assault. Considering moves to strengthen their security ties to other European countries, the U.S. and Canada is the prudent thing to do in the face of such aggression.
This is yet another reminder of how badly Putin has miscalculated in Ukraine, both in terms of underestimating the resolve of the Ukrainian people and government, and in underestimating the unity he would face from other countries. The stronger the signal of unity NATO can send to Russia, the better.