Finland will become the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's 31st member on Tuesday afternoon at a ceremony in Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced Monday. "We will raise the Finnish flag for the first time here at the NATO headquarters," he said. "It will be a good day for Finland's security, for Nordic security, and for NATO as a whole." Finland's president, Sauli Niinistö, Defense Minister Antti Kaikkonen, and Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto will attend the ceremony, at the beginning of a meeting of NATO foreign ministers.
Finland and its neighbor Sweden applied to join the Western defense alliance in May 2022, prompted by Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Stoltenberg said Finland's accession was the fastest in NATO's recent history, due almost entirely to Moscow's war. "What we see is that President [Vladimir] Putin went to war against Ukraine with a declared aim to get less NATO," Stoltenberg said. "He's getting the exact opposite."
In fact, Finland's accession will double NATO's land border with Russia, adding 832 miles to the alliance's direct boundary with Russia in Norway, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. "Unlike most members of the alliance, Finland did not cut defense spending and investment after the Cold War," The Associated Press reports. "Finland has substantial, well-trained armed forces with elite troops capable of operating in the sub-zero temperatures of the high north. The Nordic country also has a large reserve army and is investing heavily in new equipment, including dozens of U.S.-made F-35 fighter jets."
Stoltenberg said he still expects Sweden to join NATO before a leader's summit in Lithuania in July. "Sweden is not left alone," he said. "Sweden is as close as it can come as a full-fledged member." Turkey and Hungary, which ratified Finland's membership last week, are sitting on Stockholm's application due to various grievances. "All allies," Stoltenberg said, "agree that Sweden's accession should be completed quickly." He added that as far as Turkey was concerned, "my position is that Sweden has delivered on the commitments they made."