Finland officially became the 31st member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on 4 April 2023 (Tuesday), marking a major shift in the security landscape in northeastern Europe that adds some 1,300 kilometers to the alliance’s frontier with Russia. The accession was sealed during a formal ceremony at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, attended by the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Pekka Haavisto of Finland. It was known for its non-alignment during the cold war era, has ended its status, and finally joined NATO becoming an alliance with the West.
The foundations of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) were officially laid down on 4 April 1949 with the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty, more popularly known as the Washington Treaty. The Treaty derives its authority from Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, which reaffirms the inherent right of independent states to individual or collective defense. Collective defense is at the heart of the Treaty and is enshrined in Article 5. It commits members to protect each other and sets a spirit of solidarity within the Alliance. The Treaty is short – containing only 14 articles – and provides for in-built flexibility on all fronts. Despite the changing security environment, the original Treaty has never had to be modified and each Ally has the possibility to implement the text in accordance with its capabilities and circumstances.
On 4 April 1949, the 12 countries signed the North Atlantic Treaty at the Departmental Auditorium in Washington D.C., the city which lends its name to the Treaty. The Treaty also required members not to enter into any international commitments that conflicted with the Treaty and committed them to the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations. The signing of the Treaty led to the creation of the Alliance and, only later, did a fully-fledged organization develop. In effect, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) provides the structure which enables the goals of the Alliance to be implemented. To date, those goals have not fundamentally changed nor has the Treaty been rewritten. But added several amendments. As a background, the hostilities that had characterized relations between Soviet and Western powers since 1917 gradually re-emerged at the end of the Second World War. This “East-West” divide was fueled by conflicting interests and political ideologies. There were clashes over peace agreements and reparations, and tensions were exacerbated by several events. Primarily, it was aimed to counter the communist threat, eventually countering USSR, China, and Eastern Europe or the Communist bloc. Especially during the cold war era, NATO was on the front line and used all atrocities to counter the rapidly growing communist ideology.
On the other hand, the Warsaw Pact (WP), formally the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance, was a collective defense treaty signed in Warsaw, Poland, between the Soviet Union and seven other Eastern Bloc socialist republics of Central and Eastern Europe in May 1955, during the Cold War. The Warsaw Pact was the military complement to the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, the regional economic organization for the Eastern Bloc states of Central and Eastern Europe. Dominated by the Soviet Union, the Warsaw Pact was established as a balance of power or counterweight to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Western Bloc. There was no direct military confrontation between the two organizations; instead, the conflict was fought on an ideological basis and through proxy wars. Both NATO and the Warsaw Pact led to the expansion of military forces and their integration into the respective blocs. However, on 25 February 1991, the Warsaw Pact was declared disbanded at a meeting of defense and foreign ministers from Pact countries during a meeting held in Hungary.
Logically there was no need to maintain NATO after the end of the Warsaw Pact, as there was no more communist threat, and no more need to counter Russia or China. Rationally speaking, after the end of the cold war, the existence of NATO was a big question mark. It was supposed to disband NATO instantly.
Contrarily, not only NATO was kept alive, but also made serious expansions, and many of the Warsaw Pact nations were included in NATO. Although it was irrational and against expectations, the US was struggling and conspiring to add all countries in Europe to join NATO. Russia was unhappy, but observed patience and constraints initially, but raised objections to joining NATO by the countries, bordering Russia. But Russia, after the disintegration of the former USSR, was not strong enough to stop any country from joining NATO. It focused on its revival and struggled to raise to the previous level of superpower status. Russia kept resisting the expansion of NATO at diplomatic and political levels and held serious negotiations with the West and signed a few agreements too, including Minsk I and Minsk II remarkable agreements with Europe and the US.
Unfortunately, the US was not sincere with any agreement with Russia and ignoring all treaties including Minsk, and kept on attracting more nations to join NATO. Russia was upset and angry over US behavior and objected on several occasions, finally, warning Ukraine to join NATO. Russian President Putin has declared Ukraine as the “Red Line”. Yet, the US was not serious and has never given up its efforts to make Ukraine join NATO.
When all the hopes reached to end, and all the agreements and treaties, met disappointments, Russia desperately launched a special military operation to secure its borders only. Russia has no intention to launch a full-fledged war on Ukraine nor wanted to occupy it. It was just intended for a limited operation like Crimea Operation in 2014. Unfortunately, the US has turned it into a war and prolonged it to make it unending for a long time. Although there have been several peace attempts from a few friendly, sensible, and peace-loving nations, all efforts were made unsuccessful by the US.
As a matter of fact, thousands of precious human lives have been lost, millions have been made refugees, infrastructure damaged, houses damaged, basic utilities, were destroyed, and shortage of food, fuel, and medicines is a common phenomenon, and it starts impacting on neighboring countries as well as entire Europe and to some extent globally. The root cause is yet NATO, if investigations are made genuinely, NATO should be held responsible for this severe catastrophe.
The conflict resulting from NATO expansion has caused the loss of thousands of lives, forced millions into becoming refugees, and led to the destruction of infrastructure, homes, and basic utilities. The shortage of food, fuel, and medicine is common, and neighboring countries, Europe, and even the world have felt the impact. NATO should be held responsible for this catastrophe, and a genuine investigation should be conducted to determine the root cause of the conflict.
NATO has expanded from 12 to 31 nations, and with the addition of Finland, the consequences could be dire. With a 1300 KM border with Russia, the deployment of NATO forces along the Russian border could lead to conflict. Russia has the right to protect its sovereignty and take suitable measures to address this issue. The US has opened a new front that could lead to future wars.
Finland was previously non-aligned and focused on its development, resulting in a prosperous economy and happy citizens. However, with its joining NATO, it must increase its defense expenditures, impacting its citizens’ standard of living. It is essential to consider whether the consequences are worth it and if the people of Finland are ready for them. It is not a smart move.
Given the rapid changes in geopolitics, it is crucial for scholars, policymakers, politicians, media, academics, peace-loving nations, and individuals to raise their voices to protect human lives, reduce hate and misunderstandings, and respect other religions, races, and ethnicities. The objective is to create understanding and harmony among nations and reduce the risk of wars, conflicts, and tensions. We must work together to make tomorrow better than yesterday.