Here's the Real Reason Why Finland Isn’t in NATO

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Mar. 16 2022, Published 2:26 p.m. ET

Western nations like the U.S, U.K., Canada, and others are part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to preserve political and militaristic freedom and security. With the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, certain countries that were considering joining NATO have taken a step back to assess the risk. Could that be why Finland isn’t in NATO — and may not join?

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Finland's president, Sauli Niinisto, has suggested that he’s open to joining NATO, but the threat of harm from Russia could be enough to isolate him from NATO forces.

Finland shares a border with Russia and sees similarities with Ukraine.

Finland shares an 830-mile border with Russia. Ukraine also shares a border with Russia. The similarities are, in some ways, too close for comfort. Ukraine planned to join NATO in the early aughts, but those plans were shelved until recently, when Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky opened up about potentially joining NATO.

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With thousands of soldiers, governmental employees, and civilians dead in the Russian-Ukraine war, the prospect of a NATO-backed Ukraine is obsolete.

Similarly, Finland has made clear that it isn't considering joining NATO anymore. This is largely due to the risk it would cause the nation as Russia continues its rampage. Niinisto said that Finland is politically in line with the European Union, which it joined in 1995, but remains an independent military force.

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Finland’s president knows Putin well.

Niinisto has reportedly referred to himself as a borderland interpreter. Because of this, he has a close relationship with Putin and knows what he's capable of. “His state of mind, the deciding, decisiveness—that is clearly different,” Niinisto said of Russian President Vladimir Putin prior to the Ukraine invasion.

Niinisto’s outlook makes him a popular leader. He’s near the end of his second (and last consecutive) six-year term as president, which means he likely plans on going out with a bang without fudging up border relations and risking the safety of Finnish residents. One resident, Juha Eriksson, said about Niinisto, “It’s a pity that he must leave office soon.”

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Why isn’t Sweden in NATO either?

Sweden doesn’t border Russia, but the country still rests on a basis of non-alignment style neutrality. Under the guidance of Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, Swedish residents support this stance as it keeps the country secure and stable.

Despite the fact it isn't a NATO country, Sweden does have a history of teaming up with NATO countries. The nation spent a lot on defense during the Cold War in tandem with NATO nations like Norway, Denmark, and Iceland. Also, Sweden proceeded with a silent partnership with the U.S., with the two countries exchanging intelligence information.

All that aside, Sweden still wants to remain in its existing role as a neutral-adjacent country. On March 8, Andersson rejected the call to join NATO. This tactic seems to be favored by Russia, whose Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that it “is one of the most important contributions to the common European architecture and to ensuring stability on the European continent.”

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