Finland joined NATO on April 4, 2023, which was the 74th anniversary of the formation of organization. Russia had time to prepare because the accession had been temporarily blocked by Turkey, but it was obvious that this delay would end and Helsinki would join leaving Russia to cope with the outcome.
NATO logo superimposed on Finnish flag (Source: Vedomosti.ru)
Russian papers detailed some of the immediate fallout. After the country joined NATO, Finnish politicians began to discuss the idea of changing the status of the Aland Islands in the Gulf of Sweden that have been demilitarized since 1856 as a result of the treaties ending the Crimean war. Finland is starting work on a fence that will separate the country from Russia. It will start with a three-kilometer experimental section of a first leg measuring 75 kilometers.
Aland Islands (Source: Capital.ua)
A significant question for Russia was whether Russia had brought the Finnish and subsequently – if Turkey lifts its veto – the Swedish accession to the alliance upon itself by invading Ukraine. Dmitry Drize Kommersant's political commentator came close to making the "unpatriotic" connection. He wrote:
"This is not to say that there will be any major celebrations, but it's clear that for the leaders of the [NATO] alliance this is a momentous event and, in every respect, a pleasant one. After all, NATO quite recently was on the verge of disintegration, and was trying to demonstrate its worth, but now, in fact, it is experiencing 'a rebirth,' a renaissance.
"Be that as it may, the border of the enemy's military bloc is now 148 kilometers away from Russia's northern capital [St. Petersburg]. Reaction on part of the Russian Foreign Ministry was calm: we will strengthen the military potential in the country's northwest. What else could be done? No one seems to be calling for the bombing of Helsinki, thank goodness for that.
"The times are such that an era passes away almost every day. Here is another occasion: this time we are saying goodbye to our great capitalist friend. He is no longer quite a friend. For so many years we were friends, we used to travel to them [the Finns] by minibuses to buy food products, they used to come to us to buy vodka. Holidays on lakes... Finnish boots were a sign of Soviet prosperity. However, none of that, naturally, is the main thing.
"In this regard the incorrect questions appear: How is it that we continue to struggle against NATO, but it gets closer and closer?
"And seemingly an appropriate answer is nowhere to be found. And the second question: Is the alliance really that scary? For instance, the countries of the former Soviet Baltic States have been member-states for a long time. And nothing bad happened yet, they are not attacking so far.
"What's more, it seems that they are not afraid of us at all. Even tactical nuclear arms in Belarus do not bother them much.
"Although, on the other hand, it is bad to be feared it's not the same thing as respect. There are times when you just want to fence yourself off with a big enclosure, to distance yourself further. We are witnessing it now in the literal and figurative sense. NATO serves as this very enclosure, as a wall. The neighbors are worried about their security.
"What's next? Sweden is next. There is little doubt about its accession into the bloc. In July NATO will hold a summit in Vilnius in close proximity to Russia's borders. It will be a demonstration, i.e., a rallying of the Western world in the face of the Russian threat.
SUPPORT OUR WORK
"So now, we should probably expect an emergence of a new security system, more advanced than now. The 'wall' between us is getting thicker literally every day, but don't be sorry."
Perhaps mocking the Eurasian approach recently espoused by the Russian leadership, Drize facetiously advises his compatriots to seek solace in more remote parts of the globe:
"Look at this multi-faceted world, it is so big and interesting: Asia, Africa, the Middle East and the Far East. What amazing horizons are opening up. So, there is no reason to be sad, let us be happy. What else is there left to do?"
Other Russian writers argued that politically and militarily Finland had been distancing itself from Russia and was drawing closing closer to the West and NATO long before the invasion.
Stanislav Leschenko in a fairly objective military analysis for Vzglyad chronicled Finland's creeping integration into the alliance that had occurred prior to February 2022.
"Indeed, over the past few years, Finnish troops have participated in alliance exercises without fail. In 1997, Finland joined the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. A Finnish military contingent was present in Afghanistan practically for the entire time that NATO soldiers were there. Helsinki joined the NATO Rapid Reaction Force in 2008 and became a partner under the Alliance's Enhanced Capability Program in 2014.
"In May of 2017, Finland's Lapland hosted Europe's largest joint exercise between the Suomi and NATO air forces. Finns have been regularly purchasing arms from the US, for example, in 2021, it was decided that a large batch of F-35 fighter-bombers would be purchased. In general, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has noted (not without reason) that the Finnish Armed Forces fully comply with the alliance's [standards] and can be integrated into all areas of its activities.
"In October 2021, the Finnish Cabinet published the 'Government Defense Report 2021' addressed to the Finnish Parliament. In particular, it contained the following sentences, 'NATO plays a central role in European security, and a strong and united NATO is in the interests of Europe and Finland.'"
Finnish soldiers (Source: Russian.rt.com)
Leschenko noted the Finnish sangfroid with regards to Russian military threats. "How did Finland react to the statements of the Russian leadership promising not to leave the fact of Suomi's accession into the alliance unattended? Previously, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu warned that the enlargement of the North Atlantic Alliance to Finland and Sweden, will require a review of approaches to the defense of Russian territory.'
"Recently, Dmitry Peskov, the Presidential Press Secretary also commented on the issue. 'The Kremlin believes that this is another aggravation of the situation. NATO enlargement is an attack on our security and national interests... And, naturally, this forces us to take countermeasures to ensure our own security,' said Peskov.
"However, Helsinki pretends to pay little attention to these words. The Finnish Tekniikka & Talous magazine published a position on the issue by Joakim Paasikivi, Lecturer in the strategy department at Sweden's National Defense University. He emphasized, 'There is a big difference between what the Russians say they are going to do and what they can actually do. Their ground forces in the Arctic and nearby areas are significantly weakened, and the bases there are empty.'"
An editorial in Nezavisimaya Gazeta titled "How Finland Arrived at a State of Baltic Russophobia" concluded that Finland was no different than the former Soviet Republics of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, who together with Poland comprise Russia's most ardent foes in Europe.
The paper identifies the outgoing Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin as the "driving force" behind the break with Russia, hinting that her promotion of the LGBT agenda and her search for stardom in European politics were a part of the problem.
Lower-ranking Finnish officials took their cues from Marin, for example, by ordering the demolition of a Soviet monument in Helsinki, which is a common practice in the Baltics. Some Finnish historians called for their country's direct military intervention in Ukraine. Finnish politicians called for the return of territories lost to the Soviet Union in the Winter War of 1939-40.
The leading Finnish newspapers Yle and Helsingin Sanomat had whipped up fears of an imminent Russian attack on Finland and persuaded their readership that Finland needed to join NATO as soon as possible.
"Thus, the 'Russophobic boil' in Finland has been brewing for a long time. And it is even strange that it only burst in 2022 and not earlier," the editorial reads.
Finnish hostility toward Russia was evident in the treatment of Russians in Finland. "Maybe things were good at a household level, you might ask? Let's not exaggerate a problem, as many Russian natives have settled down quite well in Finland. However, a person with a Russian surname is less likely to get a full-time job than a person with Finnish or Swedish surname. The number of cases of children taken away [by child protection services] from Russian citizens living in Finland are numerous. And all this happened long before the 37-year-old Marin got into politics."
Nor could Russia expect a reversal of the current trend as a result of the forthcoming Finnish parliamentary elections: "Which option is better for Russia, you ask? Well, things are really bad here... The National Coalition Party has even worse stance towards Russia than Marin and her party-mates. The Swedish People's Party of Finland, representing the interests of the Swedish minority... should be perceived as outright Russophobes and Atlantic 'hawks.' ... All in all, it turns out that the current Finnish prime minister and her party are hardly the worst 'political dish' that the neighboring country has to offer."
Russia's Ukrainian campaign merely served as an excuse for processes that were maturing in Finland: "It turns out that Finland has almost become the fourth Baltic state, with hardly any prospect ever for improved relations between our countries. Prerequisites for such a 'pivot' have been brewing for years. It was just a matter of waiting for the pragmatists of the old generation (that were more concerned with the economy) to give way to the more 'value-minded' Marin and [Foreign Minister Pekka] Haavisto. And when that happened a pretext in the form of the Special Military Operation has emerged, Russo-Finnish relations collapsed into an abyss with little hope of extrication from it any time soon."