(CNSNews.com) – With a handover of documents in Brussels on Tuesday, the border between NATO and Russia more than doubled in length, a further consequence of President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Finland became the 31st member of the transatlantic alliance at a ceremony at NATO headquarters, after the final holdout in its application process, Turkey, ratified its accession.
The ceremony came almost 11 months after Finland and Sweden simultaneously applied to join NATO, shedding historical neutrality in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine three months earlier.
Until Tuesday, Russian territory adjoined that of five NATO allies – Latvia, Estonia, and Norway, as well as Lithuania and Poland (which border Russia’s exclave of Kaliningrad) – a combined total of around 700 miles.
Finland’s entry into NATO more than doubles that, since it shares an 830 mile-long border with Russia.
Because the U.S. is the depository for the 1949 North Atlantic Treaty – which was signed in Washington 74 years ago on Tuesday – Secretary of State Antony Blinken took part in the formalities.
After receiving ratification documents from his Turkish counterpart, Blinken confirmed to NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg that all 30 members had now approved Finland’s entry.
Stoltenberg in turn handed a formal invite document to Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto, who handed to Blinken Finland’s “instrument of accession.”
Blinken duly declared Finland to be NATO’s 31st member, and in his country’s first act as a member, Haavisto handed Blinken Finland’s ratification of the accession to NATO of its neighbor, Sweden, whose admission continues to be held up by both Turkey and Hungary.
Stoltenberg said Finland’s accession was the fastest “in NATO’s modern history.”
Other aspirants have gone through “membership application plan” processes that lasted years – more than two decades in the case of North Macedonia.
Stoltenberg reiterated his hope that Sweden would be able to join “as soon as possible.” NATO holds its annual summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, in July, and U.S. officials have repeatedly voiced the expectation that both Finland and Sweden would have joined by then.
Hailing a “new era,” Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said in a statement that his country’s NATO membership “is not targeted against anyone.”
“Nor does it change the foundation or objectives of Finland’s foreign and security policy,” he said. “Finland is a stable and predictable Nordic country that seeks to peaceful resolution of disputes. The principles and values that are important for Finland will continue to guide our foreign policy also in the future.”
Niinisto also said Finland and Sweden had applied to join NATO together, and “Finland’s membership is not complete without that of Sweden.”
Commenting on Tuesday’s development, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said Russia would respond to Finland joining NATO “when the time is ripe.”
He told the Rossiya-24 TV channel that Western representatives who say Russia will not react “are deeply mistaken,” adding, “A reaction will follow.”
Ryabkov said the security of Finland and Sweden would “decline” rather than increase as a result of joining the alliance.
When Finland and Sweden first indicated their intention to apply to join NATO, former Russian president and close Putin ally Dimitry Medvedev warned in a veiled threat that Russia may respond by deploying nuclear weapons in their near neighborhood.
Finland offers significant benefits to the alliance it’s joining. According to a Wilson Center report late last year, it boasts the largest and best-equipped artillery forces in Western Europe, with “more artillery firepower than the combined militaries of Poland, Germany, Norway, and Sweden can currently muster.”
Finland’s defense spending this year is on track to reach 2.25 percent of GDP, which would make it one of just a handful of allies to have achieved a target, first set in 2014, for each to devote at least two percent of national GDP on military spending, by 2024.
According to the most recent figures from NATO, only seven allies have achieved the two percent mark as of 2022. They are Greece (3.54 percent), the United States (3.46 percent), Lithuania (2.47 percent), Poland (2.42 percent), Britain (2.16 percent), Estonia (2.12 percent), and Latvia (2.07 percent).
Meanwhile defense spending in Europe’s three leading economies, France, Italy, and Germany, is at 1.89 percent, 1.51 percent, and 1.49 percent of GDP respectively.
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