“I am deeply proud to welcome Finland as a full-fledged member of our Alliance, and I look forward to welcoming Sweden as soon as possible. Joining NATO is good for Finland, it is good for Nordic security, and it is good for NATO as a whole,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
Finland became the 31st member of NATO as it was accepted as a full-term member on April 4th. The Kremlin viewed this as a security threat, and Andrei Demin, deputy commander of the Russian Aerospace Forces, told the Defense Ministry-run newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star) that “Under these conditions, air defence troops are practising the protection of the state border in the northwest by the increased threat level.”
A Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance treaty were signed in 1948 between Finland and the Soviet Union. This lasted throughout the Cold War, with Finland being neutral. Even after the end of the cold war, Finland chose not to join NATO. Strategically it was because it shares a long border with Russia. It partially abandoned its policy of neutrality in 1994, joining NATO’s Partnership for Peace and then the European Union in 1995.
North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) was formed in 1949 by the countries supporting the Western bloc under the USA to counter the growing Soviet expansion. There were 12 members initially, and the first expansion happened in 1952 when Turkey and Greece joined. As of 2022, there were 30 members after North Macedonia joined. US President Joe Biden warmly welcomed the completion of Finland’s accelerated accession process, saying NATO had shown itself more united than ever after Russia invaded Ukraine. The newly joined member, previously following a non-aligned engagement policy with NATO, decided to do away with the policy when Russia attacked Ukraine in February 2022; in the month of June 2022, it forwarded its application to become a full-time member of NATO. The European countries’ security patterns and threats changed as the war in Ukraine unfolded.
With the expansion of NATO, Russia’s border with NATO has expanded. The expansion is seen as a failure of Russia as Russia justified its war on Ukraine to stop expanding NATO any further. “We will strengthen our military potential in the western and north-western direction,” Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko, after NATO’s recent expansion. In October last year, Norway’s political parties planned to build a fence along parts of the country’s borders with Russia. This came when Russian nationals were arrested for illegally flying drones in the country. “President Putin wanted to slam NATO’s door shut. Today, we show the world that he failed. That aggression and intimidation do not work,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg with the President of Finland, Sauli Niinistö.
Implications for India
The fall of the Soviet Union with the end of the Cold War, the rise of India and China, the deepening of the India-US relationship and the war on Ukraine have profoundly affected India-Russia relations.
India has not joined the US in supporting sanctions against Russia, showing that it follows an independent foreign policy. It has imported oil from Russia at a lesser rate and has engaged in dialogues and discussions at various summits and meetings. In the 2022 Summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Modi asked Putin to ‘rely on diplomacy’ rather than war, which showcased a change in India’s approach towards Russia whereby it clearly stated its priorities of diplomacy and peace. China, under Xi, on the other hand, maintained silence about Russia’s attack on Ukraine.
Russia and India had always followed a relationship of friendship when we saw a treaty of friendship signed in 1971 between the two at a time when the world was facing a cold war. Recently, the world is witnessing a closer relationship between Russia and China, reinforced by the growing adversarial relationship between the two countries with the West.
Let’s not forget that even though India has not supported any sanctions against Russia, it has, along with the US, Japan, and Australia, formed the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD), which is also said as the alternative to NATO in the Asian region. India engages with NATO in terms of strategic dialogues as it states that it wants to engage with everyone who takes part actively in issues affecting globally. As NATO is a European grouping of military alliances, there is no room for India to enter it as a member. Still, the organisation welcomes countries of South and South East Asia, including India and China, to take part in dialogues and discussions actively. In March 2023, on the sidelines of the Raisina Dialogue, held every year in India to discuss essential affairs on geopolitics and geoeconomics, Julianne Smith, US ambassador to NATO, said there had been informal exchanges and that NATO is open to engagement with India. However, India pursues its foreign policy by taking into consideration its interests first which are, respecting the sovereignty of nations, maintaining goodwill with all, and not taking any sides as we witnessed during the cold war but openly supporting and articulating diplomacy and peace to resolve issues rather than war.
The international scenario is changing with new partnerships entering into global forums. The world is witnessing the rise of several powers capable of forming or entering into alliances to counter the more extensive forces. Amid all these events, India continues to follow its independent foreign policy by giving primacy to diplomacy and peace, which shows that no matter who is on the other side, India will always aim for peace and diplomacy, along with the safety and security of itself.