Brussels – Finland is poised to join NATO on Tuesday, a historic realignment triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but the head of the military alliance said no more troops would be sent to the Nordic country unless it asked for help.
Russia has already warned it would bolster defenses along its border with NATO if the alliance deployed additional troops or equipment to its new member.
“There will be no NATO troops in Finland without Finland’s consent,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters at the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels hours before the country joins.
But he refused to rule out the possibility of holding more military exercises there, saying NATO would not let Russia’s demands dictate the organization’s decisions.
“We are constantly evaluating our posture, our presence. We have more exercises, we have more presence, also in the Nordics,” he said.
Later on Tuesday, Finland will officially become the 31st member of NATO and take its place among the world’s largest security alliance.
Afraid of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, Finland applied to join in May, setting aside years of military non-alignment to seek protection under the organization’s security umbrella. Neighboring Sweden also applied, but the accession process may take a few months longer.
Finland shares a 1,340-kilometer border with Russia, so its entry will more than double the size of NATO’s border with Russia. The move is a strategic and political blow to President Vladimir Putin, who has long complained about NATO’s expansion into Russia.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday that Finland’s membership reflects the alliance’s anti-Russian course and warned that Moscow will respond depending on what weapons NATO allies place there.
“We will closely monitor what will happen in Finland and how NATO will use Finnish territory for the deployment of weapons, equipment and infrastructure next to our border that could potentially threaten us. Actions will be taken depending on that,” Peskov said in a conference call with reporters.
But Peskov also tried to downplay the impact, noting that Russia has no territorial disputes with Finland.
It is not clear what additional military resources Russia may send to the Finnish border. Moscow has deployed the bulk of its most capable military units to Ukraine.
Stoltenberg said that once Finland joins, Finland will benefit from NATO’s “iron-clad security guarantee”, under which all member states pledge to come to the defense of any ally under attack.
“Past [Finland] becomes a full member, we remove the room for miscalculation in Moscow about NATO’s readiness to protect Finland, and that makes Finland safer and stronger, and all of us safer, says Stoltenberg.
Finland’s entry, to be marked with a flag-raising ceremony at NATO headquarters, falls on the organization’s very own birthday, the 74th anniversary of the signing of the founding Washington Treaty on April 4, 1949. It also coincides with a meeting of the alliance’s members. foreign ministers.
The Finnish president, foreign and defense ministers participate in the ceremony.
Turkey became the last NATO member state to ratify Finland’s membership protocol on Thursday. It will hand over the document officially cementing the decision to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken before the ceremony.
Finland’s membership becomes official when its own foreign minister submits documents that complete the accession process to Blinken. The US State Department is the repository for NATO membership texts.