The Line in the Sand: Finland and the Unpredictable Neighbor, René Nyberg,

…For Russia, however, Finland’s NATO membership would be a line in the sand. A line that if crossed would trigger a Russian response and induce a severe crisis or even a break in relations with Moscow. In early July 2016, when a Finnish correspondent asked Vladimir Putin in a press conference why Russia was pushing Finland and Sweden into NATO, the Russian president stated that Moscow would reposition its troops if Helsinki joined the alliance. Putin’s curt reply closed this cycle of the NATO debate. It confirmed the existence of a redline but specifically failed to mention Finland’s cooperation with NATO, ever-closer cooperation with Sweden, or transatlantic linkages.

Finland is not defenseless, and the country never gave up territorial defense or abandoned conscription. In a speech at the end of August, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö summarized the importance of national defense as a key source of Finland’s national security: “We have learned to think that a credible defence creates a threshold and deterrent for intruders. It is equally important that, if a serious crisis should break out, a credible Finnish defence provides also strong incentives for partnership.”

Survival and avoiding occupation are perhaps Finland’s biggest achievements. Certainly, finding a modus vivendi with a former enemy is what makes the Finnish story so compelling. In parallel, Finland’s unflagging resolve in integrating with Western structures has been a cornerstone of its economic success. Close cooperation with NATO is the logical continuation of this effort. The possibility of applying for NATO membership remains a tool for managing the unpredictable. Läs artikel