Finland regions

Putin wanted the ‘Finlandization of NATO’ but got the ‘NATO-ization of Finland’

  • Biden told AP that Putin wanted the Finnishization of NATO by invading Ukraine.
  • Putin instead got the “NATO-ization of Finland,” the president said.
  • Russia’s invasion of Ukraine led Finland to break with a long history of neutrality and pursue NATO membership.

President Joe Biden, in a new interview with The Associated Press, said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s goal of preventing NATO expansion by invading Ukraine has backfired.

“The reason Putin said he was going in was because he didn’t want them to join NATO,” Biden said. “He wanted the kind of Finnishization of NATO. He got the NATO-ization of Finland, instead.”

Finlandization is a term that refers to the state of relations between Finland and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. At this time, Finland agreed to remain neutral and militarily non-aligned in exchange for the USSR, its dominant neighbor, pledging not to invade. The Finns and the Soviets fought a short but brutal war during World War II known as the Winter War, which saw Finland lose a significant portion of its territory. Finland wanted to avoid another invasion and maintain its sovereignty, so it agreed to remain neutral. That said, Moscow had a significant influence on Helsinki politics during this period.

Finland became a NATO partner country after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but failed to become a full member. But Russia’s unprovoked war on Ukraine quickly changed that, and Finland – alongside Sweden, another historically neutral country – decided to join NATO. The alliance is now working to add the Nordic countries to its ranks, but objections from Turkey have stalled the process. Any decision on NATO enlargement requires the unanimous agreement of all current members, who pledge that an attack on one will be an attack on all.

Prior to the invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin demanded that the West accept various security guarantees. This included permanently banning Ukraine and Georgia – another former Soviet republic that Russia has invaded in recent history – from joining NATO. The alliance strongly rejected the request, saying its open door policy was non-negotiable.

Finland and Sweden’s bid to join NATO is one of the most significant examples of how the Russian invasion of Ukraine backfired on Putin.

But that doesn’t mean the war hasn’t been tough on the West as well, which quickly came together to impose tough sanctions on Moscow in response to the invasion. The economic fallout from the conflict has raised questions about whether the Western alliance can maintain the political will to continue its support for Kyiv and sanctions against Moscow.

The war has caused a global oil crisis and rising gas prices – in addition to high inflation – have put pressure on Biden with midterm terms on the horizon at the end of this year. But in the interview with The Associated Press, the president said the consequences of supporting Kyiv were worth it.

“Gasoline went up…$1.25 right off the bat” when “Putin’s war started,” Biden said, adding “I made it clear by helping Ukraine and organizing NATO to help Ukraine, that it was going to be expensive, be the price to pay for it.”

“It’s not going to be free,” Biden said, but added that “the option to do nothing was worse” and would have caused “chaos in Europe.”

“What if the most powerful power, NATO, an organizational structure that we have put in place, walks away from Russian aggression of over 100,000 soldiers marching across a border to try to occupy and annihilate a culture of an entire people? what happens then? What happens next? What do we do next?” Biden said, suggesting that had the West not stepped up, it would have increased the chances of Russia targeting other countries in the region.

Biden also suggested that standing aside as Russia invaded would have sent dangerous signals to China over Taiwan, as well as to North Korea in terms of its nuclear ambitions.

“I’ve been in foreign policy my whole career. I’m convinced that if we let Russia roll and Putin roll, he wouldn’t stop,” Biden said.