Russian President Vladimir Putin has achieved the opposite of his Ukraine war aims by triggering Finland’s “historic” accession to NATO later on Tuesday, alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg said, declaring Sweden would also join soon.
“President Putin had as a declared goal of the invasion of Ukraine to get less NATO,” he told reporters at NATO’s Brussels headquarters, speaking hours before Finland was officially to become a member of the military alliance.
“He is getting exactly the opposite… Finland today, and soon also Sweden will become a full fledged member of the alliance,” Stoltenberg said.
Later on Tuesday, NATO was to hold a ceremony at its headquarters marking Finland’s accession.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February last year pushed Finland and its neighbour Sweden to apply for NATO membership, abandoning decades of military non-alignment.
The final hurdle to Finland’s membership was removed last week when Turkey’s parliament voted to ratify Helsinki’s application even as it kept Sweden’s bid on hold.
Finland has a 1,300-km (810-mile) border with Russia, meaning NATO’s frontier with Russia will roughly double in length, and the move drew a pledge from Moscow that it will beef up its forces in border regions.
Responding to Moscow’s latest announcements, Stoltenberg said NATO was constantly assessing its own posture, holding more exercises and having more presence in the Nordic region.
He also played down Putin’s pledge to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus.
“So far, we haven’t seen any changes in Russia’s nuclear posture that require any changes in our posture, but we will remain vigilant, we monitor closely what they do, and we will take the necessary steps to always ensure that we have credible deterrence for all our allies.”
Stoltenberg said NATO’s Nordic enlargement was not meant to provoke a conflict but preserve peace.
“By (Finland) becoming a full-fledged member, we are removing the room for miscalculation in Moscow, about NATO’s readiness to protect Finland, and that makes Finland safer and NATO stronger”, he noted.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday the expansion of NATO was an “encroachment on our security and on Russia’s national interests” and that Moscow would watch closely for any NATO military deployments in Finland.