FOR THE WEEK OF APR 10, 2023
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A flag-raising ceremony in a European capital was a big deal last week. At the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) headquarters in Brussels, capital of Belgium, Finland's flag was added to those of 30 other members in a military alliance that includes the United States. Finland, located in the Scandinavia region of northern Europe, has a 830-mile border with Russia and had been neutral since 1948. Its membership in NATO, the world's biggest security alliance, is a setback for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Finland's entry significantly changes the military landscape in Europe by more than doubling NATO's borders with Russia.
Putin has long complained about the group's expansion toward Russia and cites that as one reason for his country's war with neighboring Ukraine. He "wanted to slam NATO's door shut," Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg of the organization said last week as he welcomed Finland. "Today we showed the world that he failed, that aggression and intimidation do not work. Instead of less NATO, he has achieved the opposite: more NATO. And our door remains firmly open."
Finland applied last May, three months after Russia invaded Ukraine. Finland now is protected by NATO's pledge that an attack on any member would be considered an attack on all. Sweden, a Scandinavian neighbor that has avoided military alliances for more than 200 years, also wants to join. Objections from two members, Turkey and Hungary, have delayed its application.
President Biden says: "When Putin launched his brutal war of aggression against the people of Ukraine, he thought he could divide Europe and NATO. He was wrong. Today, we are more united than ever."
Finland's president: "The era of military non-alignment in our history has come to an end. A new era begins." -- Sauli Niinisto
Russia says: "We will closely monitor what will be going on in Finland and how NATO will use the territory of Finland for the deployment of weapons, equipment and infrastructure next to our border that would potentially threaten us. Measures will be taken dependent on that." – Dmitry Peskov, government spokesman