On Friday, Finland released an official government report suggesting that, if the country were to join NATO, it would lead to a crisis with neighboring Russia.
According to the report prepared for Prime Minister Juha Sipila, NATO membership would incrementally strengthen Finland’s national security posture initially, but would likely trigger a harsh reaction from the Kremlin in light of the ongoing militarization along Russia’s border by the Western alliance. Militarily-neutral Finland shares an 833 mile-long (1340 km) border with Russia.
The report did not dash all prospects of the Nordic country joining the Western military alliance, suggesting that a joint Finnish-Swedish application for NATO membership may be a better strategic option than either country joining alone.
Popular opinion embraces Finland’s peaceful legacy of refusing to associate itself with military alliances. In a recent public opinion poll, over 55% of Finns opposed their country acceding to NATO, while 22% supported the idea.
In recent months, the Obama administration has expanded appropriations to the UN’s Nordic mission four-fold, with troops conducting aggressive military exercises dubbed 'Cold Response' on the border of Norway and Russia.
In response to Western saber-rattling, Russia has dispatched warplanes to fly simulated attack passes near US destroyers in the Baltic Sea. In addition to buzzing US destroyers in the Baltic Sea, on Friday a Russian Su-27 jet flew within 25 feet of a US Air Force RC-135 aircraft over the Baltic Sea.
In what some are billing a ‘new Cold War,’ the Kremlin has begun to express its disdain for the American-led policy of encirclement. On Friday, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov warned that if Finland’s neighbor Sweden were to accede to NATO, Moscow would take "necessary military-technical measures" in response.
During the Cold War, Finland maintained positive diplomatic ties with Moscow, despite engaging heavily in economic relations with the United States, suggesting that the country could once again manage to navigate a path of peace between the two superpowers.