Finland’s imminent accession to NATO will strengthen the alliance’s control of the Baltic Sea—a strategic body of water in northern Europe bordered by Russia—and bolster the bloc’s deterrence of Moscow, according to NATO officials and military commanders.
Newsweek spoke with several officials and commanders in Estonia—which shares a 182-mile border with Russia—about the significance of Finland’s announcement this week, in which both the president and prime minister called for NATO membership “without delay.”
The decision will end decades of official neutrality in Helsinki, a seismic shift spurred by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. Sweden, also historically neutral, is widely tipped to follow Finland’s lead. The pair are expected to become the 31st and 32nd NATO nations, coinciding with the alliance summit in Madrid in June.
At a press conference at the Estonian Defense Ministry in the capital Tallinn, Undersecretary for Defense Policy Tuuli Duneton told journalists her compatriots “would welcome our dear neighbors to NATO, and of course are more than keen to continue our very good bilateral cooperation with those two countries in the context of NATO as well.”
“It’s going to be a very positive step for the whole of the security around the Baltics,” Duneton explained at the press conference, on the sidelines of the Lennart Meri Conference, an annual event focused on foreign and security policy issues in eastern and northern Europe. “We think that we could do even better military and defense cooperation, as we have been doing so far.”
“It is clear that [with] the accession of those two countries, the Baltic Sea region airspace and maritime space will become a new, coherent space that is belonging to NATO nations,” Duneton said. “So there is much room for future cooperation. And I think we will be stronger together against Russia.”