Finland and Sweden to confirm plans to join NATO in June
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Boris Johnson is due to travel to Finland on Wednesday as key decisions loom over the country’s future in the face of Russian aggression in Europe. Countries across Europe and the world have been forced to rethink their security structures following Moscow’s belligerent invasion of Ukraine, in particular countries that share a border with Russia.
Why is Boris going to Finland?
Mr Johnson is travelling to Finland to discuss the country’s move to join the defensive alliance NATO.
Setting out the UK’s position ahead of Mr Johnson’s visit, his spokesperson said: “We support countries’ democratic capability to decide on things like NATO membership.
“We understand the positions of Sweden and Finland and that is why the Prime Minister is going to discuss these broader security issues.”
Finland has remained neutral in international conflicts since the end of World War 2 – but all of this could be about to change.
Finland was invaded by the Soviet Union in the Second World War, and was forced to cede 10 percent of its territory and pay reparations to Moscow.
Since then, Finland has tread a careful line, being careful not to invoke the wrath of the Soviet Union and later Russia.
But, the war in Ukraine has thrown a glaring spotlight onto Russia’s other neighbours in Europe, after the country showed it had the will to invade unprovoked.
Finland in particular is vulnerable to Moscow as it shares an 810-mile border with Russia.
The Finnish Parliament’s defence committee said on Tuesday that joining NATO is the best option for Finland to guarantee its security.
Finnish President Sauli Niinisto is expected to confirm his country’s stance on membership on Thursday.
If it joins, it will become the 31st member of the alliance.
A similar announcement is expected from Sweden’s ruling Social Democrats by Sunday.
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Why won’t Putin be happy?
If Finland and Sweden join NATO, Russia would find itself completely surrounded by NATO countries in the Baltic Sea and the Arctic.
The Kremlin has already used fears that Ukraine would join NATO as part of its pretext to invade, and another neighbour vowing to join the alliance has not been welcomed.
In fact, President Putin has already made a vocal warning to Russia’s other neighbours.
In his speech on the day Ukraine was invaded, he said: “A military presence in territories bordering Russia, if we permit it to go ahead, will… create an ever-mounting and totally unacceptable threat to Russia.”
An all out war with Finland is unlikely, but a response from Russia is almost certain.
Russia has sustained significant losses during the war so far, and is highly unlikely to launch an attack while its forces are spread in Ukraine.
However, as part of Russia’s usual playbook, moving weapons systems closer to Finland, disinformation campaigns, cyber attacks, economic countermoves and steering migration toward the Russian-Finnish border are all likely and similar to what happened on Poland’s border with Belarus in 2021.
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