By Otso Castrén
Otso Castrén (right) pictured with Corporal (left) firing a mortar with fellow Finnish conscripts
On May 18 2022, Finland officially applied to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). Following this, on 5 July, NATO signed the accession protocol for Finland and Sweden to join the alliance. It was called- rightfully so- a historic moment, not just for the organisation, but for Finland and Sweden themselves. In addition, a good show of the proverbial finger to the war-monger in charge, that is, Vladimir Putin.
As a Finn, I could not be happier. Finally and truly can the embarrassment that was the so-called “Finlandization” be put to rest. “Finlandization”, a form of neutrality where Finland was made sure to not criticise or contradict Soviet foreign policy, was a necessary evil if there ever was one, but one that no self-respecting country should have to deal with. Since time immemorial, Russia has shown a blatant disregard for the self-determination of states with the misfortune to border it. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, there was some chance that this new Russia could walk a new path. However, with the ascension of Mr Putin, the thought of Russia being a civil neighbour is but a forlorn hope. This is again illustrated with his illegal aggression into Ukraine and the waging of a conflict that has killed thousands of Ukrainian civilians and soldiers. The world would have been well to realise this during the conflicts in Chechnya and Georgia, two conflicts in the 1990s and mid-2000s which this current Ukrainian conflict echoes with Russia as the aggressor seeking to bring to heel a part of the dissolved former Union. As it stands, Ukrainians are paying the price for the rest of world’s unease with confrontation.
Finland has, militarily and economically, increased its ties to NATO and the West since the moment that the hammer and sickle were lowered from the Kremlin. Ending its ‘treaty of friendship’ unilaterally, Finland since then has purchased increased amounts of military equipment from the West, and especially the U.S. (latest being F-35 aircraft), with newly procured material being NATO standardised. Finland has also taken a more active role in participating and hosting military exercises involving NATO countries.
The NATO issue in Finland has not been without its opponents during political and civil discussion which I believe to be right and proper for an issue of such magnitude; an aspect of objectors’ belief to the inclusion of Finland in the organisation seems to be fear of the act of joining leading to Russian aggression. Ukraine was invaded without being a member of NATO (nor of the EU); Russia has shown not to really care about such things. I believe it better to be a member and have treaty allies to call, than not to be and simply hope some will show up. It is for the survival of our country, culture, and very way of life after all.
I am proudly a member of the Finnish Defence Forces and am currently in the Reserve. I am more than willing and ready to defend my country and all that I believe our blue-cross flag stands for. I know many people would be happy with the knowledge that Finland would not stand alone if Russia were to come- and NATO membership provides that knowledge. With a border some 1300 km long, this will be new territory for NATO as well, but I believe this will not be anything to worry about. As a Finnish saying goes, ‘whether the enemy comes from the east, north-east, or south-east, we will be ready.’