What is NATO and Why is Finland Joining?

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In joining Nato, Finland is ending seven decades as a non-aligned country.

Finland shares a long border with Russia. It applied to join the defensive alliance soon after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

What is Nato?

Nato – the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – was formed in 1949 by 12 countries, including the US, UK, Canada and France.

Finland is the 31st country to join.

Nato members agree to help one another if they come under attack.

The organisation’s original goal was to challenge Soviet expansion in Europe after World War Two.

After the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, many of the Eastern European countries which used to be its allies in the Warsaw Pact were granted Nato membership.

Russia (which was formerly part of the Soviet Union) has long argued that Nato’s acceptance of Eastern European countries threatens its security. It has vehemently opposed Ukraine’s request to join the alliance, fearing this would encroach too closely on its territory.

Why is Finland joining Nato?

Finland has a 1,340km (832 mile) land border with Russia.

In 1948, it agreed to be a neutral country as part of a “friendship agreement” with the Soviet Union.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, it edged closer to Nato, becoming an “official partner” of the bloc in 1994.

Soon after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, both Finland and Sweden asked to be given full entry to Nato as soon as possible.

Finland adds 257,250 regular and reserve troops to Nato’s forces, and 107 combat aircraft.

What hurdles did Finland face in joining Nato?

All the parliaments of Nato member states have to agree to a new country joining the alliance.

Finland and Sweden applied to join Nato together, but Turkey and Hungary have not yet approved Sweden’s entry.

They were the last two member states to approve Finland’s membership as well, Turkey on 30 and Hungary on 27 March.

Turkey’s government had delayed allowing Finland to join, complaining that it supported “Kurdish terrorists”.

It is still blocking Sweden’s membership, accusing it also of harbouring Turkey’s enemies and allowing anti-Turkish demonstrations on its streets.

How are Nato countries supporting Ukraine?

Many of the alliance’s member states have provided Ukraine with weapons and ammunition to help it defend itself against Russia..

The US is sending 31 Abrams tanks, the UK 14 Challenger 2 tanks, Germany 14 Leopard 2 tanks and Norway eight Leopard 2 tanks.

The US has also sent armoured fighting vehicles such as the Stryker and the Bradley.

In addition, the US and UK have sent Ukraine long-range missile systems such as Himars, which have been striking targets behind Russia’s front lines.

Several Nato countries have provided howitzers and self-propelled guns, while Turkey has sold Ukraine several Bayraktar TB2 drones.

The US and others have supplied air defence systems to shoot down Russian cruise missiles and drones over Ukraine.

The anti-tank weapons that the US and UK have supplied, such as Javelin and Nlaw, were crucial in turning back Russia’s advance on Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, in spring 2022.

Nato countries are also aiming to ramp up their supplies of artillery shells and ammunition to Ukraine.

Why won’t Nato countries give more help to Ukraine?

Poland and Slovakia are sending Ukraine Soviet-era Mig fighter jets, but Nato countries are not sending the US-made F-16s it has been asking for.

Nato countries also fear that if Ukraine were to use these jets to strike targets inside Russia, it could draw them deeper into the war.

Nato countries are not sending their troops to Ukraine, or imposing a no-fly zone over the country, again for fear of provoking a direct conflict with Russia.

However, Nato countries have now stationed 40,000 troops in eastern Europe – on the territory of alliance members such as Lithuania and Poland.

They also have another 300,000 troops on high alert in Europe.

Why isn’t Ukraine in Nato?

Nato told Ukraine in 2008 that it could join the bloc at some point in the future, but declined its recent request for “fast-track” membership.

This is because Article 5 of the Nato charter says that if one member is attacked, all members should come to its defence.

If Ukraine was made a member, Nato countries would technically have to go to war with Russia.

Source BBC