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It’s good to have friends, in life and in geopolitics. Isolation is no way to approach the complex world in which we all live. So it is welcome news that one of America’s strongest groups of allies, NATO, became even stronger this past week.
On Tuesday, Finland officially became part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which for over 70 years has stood as a vital security alliance. The move followed Russia’s brutal attack on Ukraine. Vladimir Putin and his government have only themselves to blame. As Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said in May 2022, Russia only needs to “look in the mirror.”
Despite what the Russian government might try to project, strengthening alliances in response to aggression is not a hostile act of escalation — it is a natural, logical and necessary one. As we’ve written before, Russia cannot pretend to be a victim as it wages war on a neighbor.
The U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly to ratify NATO membership for both Finland and Sweden in August of last year. Both Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King have supported growing this critical alliance. And both welcomed Finland as an official member.
“Last May, along with three other senators, I was in Finland meeting with the Finnish president and prime minister as the parliament was debating joining NATO. I strongly supported Finland’s accession to NATO because its significant military capabilities and commitment to collective deterrence will strengthen the trans-Atlantic alliance,” Collins said in an April 4 press release. “Finland has a long history of cooperation with NATO and the United States. It is a key partner in the F-35 aircraft program, and Finnish troops have served alongside NATO forces in many military operations, including in Bosnia and Afghanistan. And now, Russia has a NATO ally along 835 miles of its border. Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine has led to a stronger NATO.”
Again, the strengthening of the NATO alliance is a direct result of Russia’s aggression. Peace and deescalation must be the ultimate goal in Ukraine, and that must be achieved through collective resolve among freedom-loving nations, not by acquiescing to Putin’s warped and violent notion of what it means to be a neighbor. When a country attacks one of its neighbors, don’t be surprised if it leaves everyone else in the neighborhood nervous and looking for strong alliances.
“As Putin wages a bloody, illegal war to gain land that belongs to Ukraine, he is losing ground and standing among the international community. Finland officially joining NATO is a powerful reminder that America and our allies are united in defense of democracy, peace, and freedom,” King, a co-chair of the Senate Arctic Caucus, said in an April 5 statement. “Finland is a valuable addition to the defensive alliance that will help us deter conflicts, expand capabilities in the Arctic, and stabilize the High North around shared democratic values. When I met with President Niinistö last year, I told him personally that I supported his nation joining our alliance and I look forward to continued work ahead.”
The work ahead includes securing Sweden’s NATO membership as well. Other members Turkey and Hungary have kept that ratification process from moving at the same speed as Finland’s.
“Finland’s membership is not complete without that of Sweden,” Niinisto sai d, as reported by Politico. “Our persistent efforts for a rapid Swedish membership will continue.”
As they should. Adding Finland to NATO was the right move to strengthen NATO amid Russian aggression in Europe, and adding Sweden will make it even stronger.