The Finnish lawmakers have overwhelmingly voted for joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as a deterrent against what they call Russian aggression.
After a day-and-a-half-long marathon debate on Tuesday, 188 out of 200 voting lawmakers of Finland’s parliament supported the document. Eight legislators voted against it, and three abstained.
Addressing the parliament ahead of the debate, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said Finland’s intention to apply for NATO membership is due to a fundamental change in the country’s security environment.
“The only country that threatens European security, and is now openly waging a war of aggression, is Russia,” Marin said.
The Nordic nation sharing a 1,340-kilometer (830 miles) border with Russia and, once part of the Russian Empire, is expected to be given rapid accession to join the alliance.
“Finland is one of NATO’s closest partners, a mature democracy, a member of the European Union, and an important contributor to Euro-Atlantic security,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday.
Both Finland and Sweden announced their bids to join the military alliance amid Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. With this decision, the two Nordic countries put an end to a decades-long modern history of military nonalignment.
NATO was founded in 1949 as a way for Western powers to respond to the growing power and influence of the Soviet Union. Under a premise covered by Article 5, an attack on one NATO member state is considered an attack on all others, and each state is obliged to support other members.
Finland’s full NATO membership will design a new security architecture both for the country and the entire military alliance. It will pave the way for the military bloc to encircle Saint Petersburg and expand Western presence across the strategic Arctic Circle.
Russia, whose invasion of Ukraine has sparked global outrage, has long bristled about NATO moving closer to its borders. Officials in Moscow have repeatedly claimed that the deployment of the alliance’s troops threatens stability near the country’s borders and may trigger a strong response from Russia to ensure its security.
Moscow has already warned the Finnish government that its membership in the military block would negatively affect the bilateral relationship and cause a prompt response.
Speaking at a Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) meeting, Russian President Vladimir Putin said there was no threat to Russia if Sweden and Finland joined NATO. But he cautioned that Moscow would respond if the U.S.-led alliance bolstered military infrastructure in the new Nordic members.
“As to enlargement, Russia has no problem with these states – none,” Reuters quoted Putin as saying on Monday. “But the expansion of military infrastructure into this territory would certainly provoke our response.”