NATO Adds Finland

A new member has joined NATO…but what will happen following it?


Here are the streets of Helsinki, Finland, in Northern Europe. (Photo Credit: Mstyslav Chernov, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons)

Finland — the country known for its happy citizens, the northern lights, saunas, and reindeers — is thought of as a utopia by many. In light of recent events, Finland joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on April 4th, 2023. To this day there have been 31 countries that are part of NATO: the United States, Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Netherlands,  North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Türkiye, and the United Kingdom. You can think of them as a bigger example of a high school clique on the world stage; they stick together and protect their group, but those actions also affect everyone else around them. 

What is NATO?

I have mentioned that NATO seems to be a high school clique, but what exactly does NATO do? Well NATO is, first and foremost, the collective defense for the 31 member countries. The organization’s objective is to protect all members. If one NATO member is attacked, the other members will retaliate as well, forming a collective alliance. Second, they help fight terrorism and, in that same sense of the word, they consult and cooperate with each other to solve global issues. They share the burden for each other’s woes. It is important to keep in mind that most of NATO’s policies were established during the Cold War so most of their policies are geared towards defense and keeping terrorism, and communism, at bay.

They hold consultations and discussions on security issues at all levels. The most recent concern is the ongoing war in Ukraine. On February 24th, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine in what they called a “special military occupation.” That “special military occupation” has since advanced into a full blown assault with Russia on the offensive and Ukraine trying to push them back. Throughout this war, Russia has shown that it doesn’t respect the sovereignty of un-allied powers, despite countless remarks from allied powers, Russia has still continued its assault.  

But what about more recently?

Given the continuous onslaught, Finland has put in a request to join NATO. When they join, they will grow NATO’s border with Russia 2-fold. 28 out of the 30, then, NATO members accepted Finland’s request to join NATO. Türkiye didn’t and Hungary followed that path. When asked why they were against Finland joining both governments said that Finland has an association with Sweden, a country they see as having a violent history. To Turkey, Sweden is the land that houses the PKK, or the Kurdistan Workers Party, a militant Kurdish political organization. The Kurds are a stateless people that reside in countries like Syria, Iran, Türkiye and Iraq, and the PKK was created with the goal of the establishment of a Kurdish state. They’ve grown tired of not having a homeland they can call their own, so they’ve been fighting on and off for this land. Though Sweden seems to play a relatively minor role, they were the first country to welcome Kurdish refugees following persecution in Türkiye. In keeping with their idea of diplomacy amongst the regions and the sense of independence that the Kurdish strive for, Sweden has not been willing to release the people Turkey has asked for.

This image gives a visual repreesentation of the European states that are currently in NATO. With the addition of Finland, NATO will increase its border with Russia. (Photo Credit: Oliver Prokop, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons)

However, as of July 10th, 2023, Türkiye now agrees to support Sweden’s bid for NATO membership. And Hungary indicated that they would support Sweden’s bid this fall. 

Though the reasons are still slightly unknown, Türkiye softened its stance towards Finland’s ascension and not long after, Hungary also ratified Finland’s succession into NATO. 

In the beginning of this piece we believed that Finland and Sweden were joined at the hip in terms of NATO membership but that’s not true. In fact, Finland has left this partnership to forge its own path. We have to remember that Finland was merely associated with Sweden and not directly an active participant in its affairs. However, as the invasion into Ukraine continued, more Finns became afraid, and as a result, support for NATO membership soared from thirty-three to eighty-eight percent. As Finland was scared of the impending doom, they ultimately decided that their best course of action was to “drop” Sweden. 

This seems like the best course of action for Finland since they’ll now have the protection of all NATO members, but let’s see this from an outside perspective. “Finland after the continuation of the war was a neutral nation that had its neutrality for the survival of its country against the Soviet Union and modern day Russia to its extent,” saidLuis Montalvo ’25. “Finland stayed a neutral country and was a main part of many peace negotiations and one of its leaders Urho Kekkonen helped try to create the peace in Europe that was around until the illegal annexation of Crimea by the Russian government. With Finland joining NATO, it could possibly forgo the role as peace negotiator.”

While Russia won’t directly attack Finland in fear of NATO’s retaliation, this does seem to prompt Russia to act more rashly because one of the places they thought they could have gone to for help has now sided with countries that have primarily been speaking out against Russian tactics.

Where does this leave Sweden?

With Finland seemingly wanting to distance themselves from Sweden, there is a strong chance this fall for Sweden to join NATO. After all, Türkiye has indicated that they will now support Sweden’s bid, and Hungary typically follows Türkiye’s lead. 

Like Finland, more and more Swedes are fearing that Russia will attack them and are getting angsty. Because they are desperate to get on Turkey’s good side and still aren’t willing to extradite the Kurdish terrorists, as Türkiye calls them, they have enacted new antiterrorist laws. On May 4th, 2023, Sweden passed a new law stating that those that have been indicted on terrorist charges or accused of being in a terrorist organization would face four years in prison. These laws are a total 180 from Sweden’s previous legislation. While this didn’t give Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister of Türkiye, one hundred percent of what he wanted per se, it gave him enough to hold onto. 

As Erdogan has just been reelected president of Türkiye, he is particularly keen on strengthening the country’s relationship with the West. As such, it is in Türkiye’s best interests to support Sweden’s NATO bid. The future for NATO democracy seems bright. 

How does this set a precedent for NATO membership?

When NATO members want to join, the process isn’t this long or this complex. It’s one straight line from applying to discussing to determining. However, this experience has gone to demonstrate that that particular linear path doesn’t have to be the case and it will still lead to the same result. “I think it paves the way for other countries who have been on the fence about joining NATO to join. I know that the Finnish general population originally were fine with not being in NATO, but now it’s clear that it is seen as a good deterrent to Russia,” said Jakub Dje ’25. In the end, it is clear that both Finland and Sweden are desperate for safety. We can only wait to see how they will function in NATO and what will happen.

In light of recent events, Finland joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on April 4th, 2023.