Putin has real dilemma after NATO welcomes newest member Finland

Finland’s accession to NATO addressed by Shoigu

Finland’s new NATO membership poses a “real dilemma” for Russian President Vladimir Putin, Western officials have warned. Finland, which has an 830-mile border with Russia, formally became the 31st member of the bloc in a ceremony at NATO’s Brussels headquarters on Tuesday.

One Western official said: “The Russians have been full of rhetoric all along and I think that’s been their only response to Finland joining NATO.

“I don’t think they’ve looked at the consequences of their own actions and taken any responsibility for this, so there tends to be a bit of lashing out.”

Russia’s combat losses would make it difficult for them to act on any threats of escalation, officials said, adding: “The idea that they’re going to conduct manoeuvres on the Finnish border: ‘With what?’ would be the question.”

Officials said Moscow will be attempting to deal with what it perceives as a threat from the north after previously neutral Finland joined the alliance.

They said: “This poses a real dilemma for Putin and the Russians.”

One added: “Finland is, I would say, an asset to NATO, and certainly has been welcomed by Nato members, and if you look at the armed forces they can contribute, they’re certainly a significant addition to NATO’s armament.”

Since the First Finnish-Soviet War, Finland has been boosting its armed forces with 1,500 weapons, including 700 howitzers and cannons and 100 heavy and light rocket launchers.

It also has a tank force of 650 armoured vehicles, including 200 German-made Leopard 2 tanks. And its air forces boast 159 aircraft.

The country also maintained conscription. Every male aged between 18 and 60 is liable for call-up and every year 22,000 men join the army, and the country has a standing army of 19,000.

Since the start of the war on Ukraine, Finland has increased its defence budget to 1.9 percent of its GDP from 1.3 percent.

The figures will add to NATO’s military personnel which already stood at 5,817,100 with 3,358,000 active soldiers, 20,633 aircraft, 1,004,844 armoured vehicles.

In 2022, NATO countries spent an average of 2.57 percent of their GDP on defence, with Greece topping the charts with 3.82 percent.

In comparison, Russia has 830,900 active military personnel, 151,641 armoured vehicles, 4,182 aircraft and 5,977 nuclear warheads. The Russian Federation’s spending on defence declined to 4.08 percent of GDP just before the war.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has warned that Moscow will respond to the accession depending on what weapons NATO places in Finland.

He said: “We will closely monitor what will be going on in Finland and how Nato will use the territory of Finland for the deployment of weapons, equipment and infrastructure next to our border that would potentially threaten us.

“Measures will be taken dependent on that.”

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A post shared on the Russian embassy’s Twitter account accused Finland of having “given up on its unique identity” and losing its independence “which for decades gave it a special status in international affairs”.

The foreign ministry added in a statement that Russia “will have to respond with military-technical, as well as other measures to address national security threats arising from Finland joining NATO”.

Meanwhile, the UK announced £10 million for NATO’s support package for Ukraine, providing non-lethal aid such as medical equipment, rations, fuel and counter-drone equipment.

Some £2 million will also go to NATO efforts to help Georgia, Moldova and Bosnia & Herzegovina defend themselves against Russian activity.

Finland’s membership was welcomed by heads of state including Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and US President Joe Biden on Tuesday.

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