Russia’s Foolish Action Has Brought on This Predicament

The 30 member countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization approved the admission of Northern European nation Finland, expanding the U.S.-European alliance to 31.

Russia has criticized NATO enlargement, but Moscow should be aware of the reality that from the start, this move was a result of its own foolish action of invading Ukraine.

Finland has an over 1,300-kilometer-long border with Russia. During World War II, Finland had the experience of losing to the Soviet Union in a war, so in the postwar period, Helsinki has prioritized stable relations with the Soviet Union and Russia, adopting a policy of military neutrality.

Russia’s invasion of non-NATO member Ukraine in February last year, however, has raised the Russian threat in the eyes of the Finnish public. Helsinki thus embarked on its historic policy shift of joining NATO.

As a NATO member, if Finland is attacked, other member countries will consider it as an attack on their own nation and will exercise the right of collective self-defense. Finland will also be protected by the U.S. nuclear umbrella.

Finland becoming a NATO member less than a year after its application for membership can be said to be the result of efforts by other NATO members to strengthen their unity in response to Russia’s outrageous action.

Russia, however, blasted Finland joining NATO as violating its national interests and security. Russia has lost a buffer state and its border with NATO members has doubled, but it was Moscow itself that set this situation into motion.

Moscow has consistently claimed that NATO’s expansion into Eastern Europe after the end of the Cold War has worsened Russia’s security environment, which it also cites as the reason for its invasion of Ukraine.

NATO enlargement, however, has arisen only because Poland and other Eastern Europe nations want to join as they feel threatened by Russia. Using this as a pretext, Russia invaded Ukraine, which led to even Finland joining NATO.

Sweden, which had applied for NATO membership at the same time as Finland, was regrettably left out. Turkey’s opposition was the biggest obstacle.

Turkey considers the Kurdish groups operating in Sweden to be terrorist organizations and has made the extradition of their members a condition for approving its NATO membership. The conflict between the two countries has also deepened over the burning of a copy of the Koran, the sacred book of Islam, by a far-right group in Sweden.

It is undesirable that the issue of Sweden’s bid to join NATO will disrupt the alliance’s alignment and give Russia an opening to take advantage of the situation. Turkey and Sweden need to hasten coordination so that the gap between their positions can be bridged.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 6, 2023)