Finland becomes 31st NATO member despite Russian rumblings

Finland has become the 31st member of the NATO security alliance in a historic shift reportedly triggered by the war in Ukraine, prompting anger in Russia where officials have cast the move as a threat.

Finland's accession is a setback for Russia's Vladimir Putin, who had repeatedly complained of NATO's expansion before his full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Photo courtesy: Twitter/@USNATO

The Finnish flag was raised at the Brussels headquarters of the world’s largest military alliance, almost a year after Helsinki officially applied to join.

Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto earlier completed the accession process by handing over an official document to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken; the United States Department of State is the repository of NATO texts concerning membership.

Jens Stoltenberg, head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), hailed “a good day for Finland’s security, for Nordic security and for NATO as a whole”.

“This will make Finland safer and NATO stronger,” he said. “This has been the fastest accession process in NATO’s history.”

Finland President Sauli Väinämö Niinistö said membership was not “targeted against anyone”, adding his country was “stable and predictable”.

Finland applied in May, alongside Sweden, as fears of Russian aggression rose in northern Europe following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. The military alliance has now doubled its border with Russia.

“Finland’s membership is not complete without Sweden,” said Niinistö. “I look forward to Sweden joining us as the 32nd member.”

Neighbouring Sweden, which had avoided military alliances for more than 200 years, is being stalled by objections from NATO members Turkey and Hungary.