By Drago Bosnic
The formal admission of Finland on April 4 was the latest move in the process of “globalizing” NATO. At the time, the belligerent alliance’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg insisted that Helsinki’s membership “will be good for [its] security, for Nordic security, and for NATO as a whole.” Nobody ever explained how exactly this is “good for Finland’s security”. Russia and Finland share a border over 1300 km long, meaning its ascension has nearly tripled the line of direct contact between NATO and Russia, as the combined border between them has previously been approximately 700 km. Now being well over 2000 km long, the border could be a major source of tensions.
Precisely this is happening now, as the United States and Finland are finalizing a deal that would allow the Pentagon to establish a permanent military presence in the Scandinavian country. According to a report by Newsweek, published on May 2, a senior official of the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mikael Antell, confirmed that Helsinki and Washington DC are negotiating a so-called “Defense Cooperation Agreement” (DCA) that would allow for the construction of significant military infrastructure on Finnish soil. Apparently, the aforementioned agreement doesn’t include the deployment of US nuclear weapons, yet. However, the Finnish government and military officials are yet to specifically rule out the possibility of hosting nukes.
Considering the fact that, for months, Helsinki has been refusing to give any guarantees such weapons will not be deployed on its territory, this is quite telling and concerning. While the US already has nuclear weapons stationed in five NATO countries under several bilateral nuclear sharing programs with each, specifically Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Turkey, these are relatively far away from core Russian regions. On the other hand, Finland is not. Saint Petersburg, Russia’s second most important city, is less than 200 km away from the Finnish border, putting it well within the range of tactical ballistic, cruise and, most alarmingly, prospective hypersonic missiles (provided the US deals with its technological shortcomings).
If Helsinki and Washington DC were to go ahead with such plans, it would be the first case that a country has hosted American nuclear weapons after the end of the (First) Cold War. The same goes for Poland, whose insistence on having nuclear weapons deployed on its territory has already pushed Russia to deploy its own tactical warheads in Belarus. Finnish Foreign Ministry official Mikael Antell stated that the DCA “enables troops to enter the country, stay on the ground, the pre-storage of material and possible infrastructure investments through the funds granted by the US Congress to the Pentagon”. The US and Finland have allegedly been in talks on the DCA since last fall, with the latest round of discussions on the deal taking place in Helsinki last week.
“The agreement also defines the facilities and areas where the cooperation would be focused,” Antell said, adding: “They are basically military areas and garrisons. In principle, there can be more than one, but the discussions are still open in this regard.”
Commenting on the aggressive military buildup, Russian military expert Yuri Knutov told Sputnik: “The Northern Sea Route – a shipping lane that runs along Russia’s Arctic Sea coast – has become a prominent transport artery of late, and Moscow now seeks to increase maritime traffic and cargo flow along that lane. Therefore, the emergence of NATO military bases at the entrance to the Northern Sea Route would require us to boost security measures, to bolster our Northern Fleet and maybe even to deploy our warships to escort cargo vessels in order to protect the latter from any provocations or from some restrictions concocted by Western countries.”
The exact nature of permanent US military presence in Finland is not officially disclosed, although Knutov pointed out that “Helsinki did not attempt to negotiate issues such as the maximum number of foreign NATO troops that could be deployed on its soil, which appears to suggest that Finland is willing to let NATO use its territory without any limitations”. This notion is particularly worrying when counting the strong possibility of nuclear weapons being deployed so close to core Russian regions. Moscow previously never saw Finland as a direct threat, but its membership in NATO, a hostile and extremely aggressive military alliance that openly declared and targeted Russia as its primary enemy, completely changes the geopolitical calculus, a move that Helsinki chose to do unilaterally.
After Finland joined NATO, several high-ranking Russian officials stated that Moscow will respond in kind in case of further escalation and NATO military buildup, but insisted that Helsinki is still not seen as a primary military threat. However, from a purely strategic standpoint, the situation can hardly be considered optimistic. Finland directly broke from its apparent neutrality after it decided to acquire F-35 fighter jets in late 2021. The Pentagon has direct access to everything the F-35’s sensors can detect, meaning that Finland would be sharing key military data with the US regardless of whether it was a NATO member or not. Still, as previously mentioned, Helsinki being a member also means that it’s more likely to see the deployment of US offensive weapons in close proximity to St. Petersburg.
In this regard, when Stoltenberg stated that the ascension of Finland was truly historic, he was right. However, this was only in the sense that Helsinki is essentially repeating the same mistake as over 80 years ago when it joined the Axis led by Nazi Germany. Worse yet, just like Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich established military bases in Finland and deployed the Wehrmacht there just before launching “Barbarossa”, the US is doing exactly the same. Now that Finland is among “old friends” once again, maybe it should dust off the history books and pay very close attention to how such military and geopolitical adventurism ended the last time. The belligerent thalassocracy in Washington DC should be even more concerned, as Finland at least continued to exist in the postwar period. On the other hand, Nazi Germany didn’t.
Drago Bosnic is an independent geopolitical and military analyst.