Finland has formally become a NATO ally.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg today welcomed the new member when Finland's flag was raised alongside those of the 30 other nations in the alliance during a ceremony at NATO headquarters in Brussels. "From today, 31 flags will fly together — a symbol of our unity and our solidarity."
"Joining NATO is good for Finland, it is good for Nordic security, and it is good for NATO as a whole," Stoltenberg said. "Finland brings substantial and highly capable forces, expertise in national resilience, and years of experience working side by side with NATO allies. I am deeply proud to welcome Finland as a full-fledged member of our alliance, and I look forward to also welcoming Sweden as soon as possible."
Earlier, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto presented the accession instrument to U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken.
Finland has long exercised with NATO countries, but never joined the defensive alliance. Russian President Vladimir Putin's unprovoked war on Ukraine pushed the nation and Sweden to apply for membership last year.
The secretary general said Putin had hoped his invasion of Ukraine would divide and break NATO. "President Putin wanted to slam NATO's door shut," he said. "Today, we show the world that he failed, that aggression and intimidation do not work."
"As an ally, Finland will contribute to NATO's collective deterrence and defense," the Finnish president said. He promised Finland would be "a reliable ally that strengthens regional stability."
He said that Finland's NATO membership "is not targeted against anyone nor does it change the foundations or objectives of Finland's foreign and security policy. Finland is a stable and predictable Nordic country that seeks peaceful resolution of disputes. The principles and values that are important to Finland will continue to guide our foreign policy also in the future."
Finland joined the alliance on the 74th anniversary of the signing of the Washington Treaty, which established NATO. In the beginning, there were 12 nations dedicated to the defensive alliance against the Soviet Union. NATO has grown and morphed over the years. Its strength was one of the reasons the Soviet Union dissolved, and the nations that were under the boot heels of Soviet tyranny rushed to join the democratic organization.
Finland and Sweden applied for NATO membership in May 2022. "Both countries are strong democracies with highly capable militaries, who share our values and vision for the world," President Joe Biden said in a statement released by the White House. "Less than a year later, we are welcoming Finland as a member — the fastest ratification process in NATO's modern history. I look forward to welcoming Sweden as a NATO member as soon as possible and encourage Turkey and Hungary to conclude their ratification processes without delay."
Biden, too, said Putin made a colossal strategic mistake. "When Putin launched his brutal war of aggression against the people of Ukraine, he thought he could divide Europe and NATO," the president said. "He was wrong. Today, we are more united than ever. And together — strengthened by our newest ally Finland — we will continue to preserve transatlantic security, defend every inch of NATO territory, and meet any and all challenges we face."
North Macedonia was the last nation to join the alliance, becoming part of NATO in March 2020.