NATO is a military alliance of twenty-eight European and two North American countries that constitutes a system of collective defense.
The process of joining the alliance is governed by Article 10 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which allows for the invitation of “other European States” only, and by subsequent agreements.
Countries wishing to join must meet certain requirements and complete a multi-step process involving political dialogue and military integration. The accession process is overseen by the North Atlantic Council, NATO’s governing body.
NATO formed in 1949 with twelve founding members, and has added new members eight times, with the first additions being Greece and Turkey in 1952.
In May 1955, West Germany joined NATO, which was one of the conditions agree to as part of the end of the county’s occupation by France, the United Kingdom, and the United States. This prompted the Soviet Union to form their own collective security alliance, commonly called the Warsaw Pact, later that month.
Finland might seek for Nato membership within days, marking a significant move for the country that has a long history of remaining neutral during wars and avoiding military alliances.
Vladimir Putin’s actions have shattered a long-standing sense of stability in northern Europe, leaving Sweden and Finland feeling vulnerable.
Finnish ex-Prime Minister Alexander Stubb says joining the alliance was a “done deal” for his country as soon as Russian troops invaded Ukraine on 24 February.
Russia is opposed to the two countries joining forces and is using the development of the West’s defensive military alliance as a pretext for its conflict in Ukraine.
Although the 1948 contract with the Soviet Union (which ended in 1991) obligated Finland to withstand any attack on the Soviet Union carried out through Finnish territory by Germany or any of its allies, Finland skillfully maintained a neutral political position throughout the Cold War era.
Finland was admitted to the United Nations in 1955 as part of a US-Soviet deal. Since then, Finland has sent delegates to the Nordic Council, which offers policy recommendations to member countries.
When the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, which led in the adoption of the Helsinki Accords, was held in Helsinki in 1975, the country’s international actions became more generally known. Finland has maintained particularly tight relations with its Scandinavian neighbours, sharing a free labour market and collaborating in a variety of economic, cultural, and scientific endeavours. Finland joined the European Union as a full member in 1995.
After World War II, Finland was granted permission to maintain a 34,400-strong army, a 3,000-strong air force with 60 combat aircraft, and a 4,500-strong navy with ships weighing a total of 10,000 tonnes under the Treaty of Paris (1947).
Security and stability in Finland’s northern European surroundings have been impacted by the transition of Russia, the EU, and NATO at the end of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first.
The NATO participation of Finland’s Baltic neighbours Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania is seen as a stabilising element by Finns.
The Finnish Defence Forces consist of the Finnish Army, the Finnish Navy and the Finnish Air Force. In wartime the Finnish Border Guard (which is its own military unit in peacetime) becomes part of the Finnish Defence Forces.
For Finns, events in Ukraine bring a haunting sense of familiarity. The Soviets invaded Finland in late 1939. For more than three months the Finnish army put up fierce resistance, despite being heavily outnumbered.
Finland joined NATO as an official member in 1994 and has since been a key contributor to the alliance. Since the conclusion of the Cold War, they have participated in a number of NATO missions.
The adoption of Nato’s “Article 5”, which considers an attack on one member state as an attack on all, would be a significant development. For the first time, nuclear powers would provide security guarantees to Finland and Sweden.
Although the discussion in the country has suddenly swung in favour of membership, historian Henrik Meinander claims
Finland was mentally prepared for it. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, he claims, little moves toward Nato have been taken.
Finland has already reached Nato’s agreed defence spending target of 2% of GDP.